Tag Archives: Kenya

Kenya ICT4D Resources

1. National Information and Communication Policy,published by the Ministry of Communications in 2006 National Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Policy by the Ministry of Information and Communications (2006) 

2. http://www.information.go.ke

3. The case study I examined was that of a project called eLimu, who delivered tablets and educational software to schools in Kenya in 2012. http://e-limu.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=27&Itemid=51

4. External Resources

Click to access InfodevDocuments_409.pdf

Click to access Vol%202%20Paper%2010%20-%20Kenya%20ICT%20Sector%20Performance%20Review%202010.pdf

Internal Resources-

Click to access ICT_policy_guidelines_July_2013_FV3_-_5th_July_2013.pdf

5.  It was relatively easy to find quantitative data on Kenya’s ICT usage, because there is a lot of statistical data available, however this does not give an extremely accurate picture of what the average Kenyan’s ICT usage looks like. More reports and case studies would be helpful, although the data available is a good start.

Phone Phreaking

After learning more about cyber security and cyber hacking in class on Tuesday, I began thinking more about the impact that these two things could have on the developing world and projects implemented in the developing world. The presentation in class focused in cyber attacks and specific viruses and malware that have been used against the United States and other countries. It also touched on the implications cyber-warfare can have on the developing world, including human rights issues with spying on citizens and also the vulnerabilities that arise specifically in developing countries.

Hacking is “big business”, and digital currencies used in developing countries are especially vulnerable to being hacked. Another blog post touched on the helpfulness and innovation of M-Pesa, a service used in Kenya to transfer money via SMS in order to pay for goods and services. I was interested to see exactly how M-Pesa is affected by cyber hacking. I found this article detailing some downsides to M-Pesa due to phone phreaking (phone hacking). Hackers will spoof the caller ID, using the number of a bank. Users of the mobile money services then are tricked into giving the “financial institution” their information, and money is extracted from their bank accounts. It is estimated that US $13,000/month is stolen using this hacking technique. I assume this problem will only get worse with time as technologies become more and more sophisticated.

Government-funded Laptop Project Faces Opposition… From Parents

This week in class we studied the One Laptop Per Child organization and had a lengthy discussion about its obvious flaws. As IDEV students, we often find ourselves criticizing the various projects and organizations we study; its rare, however, that we see the beneficiaries of these projects condemning them as well. This article from the Associated Press in July 2013 discussed why a group of Kenyan parens voiced their opposition to President Uhuru Kenyatta’s $615 million plan to give laptops to 1.2 million school children. Parents felt that the money for the computers should be put towards raising teachers’ salaries and feeding impoverished students.

As one member of the Kenya National Association of Parents explained, “the program is bound to fail in a country that lacks enough teachers and where others strike regularly for better pay”. In 2013, Kenya faced a shortfall of 40,000 teachers. Additionally, more than 200,000 teachers in public schools across the country went on strike to protest unpaid allowances that the government had promised 16 years earlier. These parents felt that current teachers did not have the capacity to implement laptops into the classroom due to lack of training and a government-developed curriculum for the project. Additionally, a previous incident where 70 million textbooks in a public primary-school went missing added to worries that many laptops would be lost, stolen, or sold for food money.

One government spokesman defended the laptop project, saying it was crucial to Kenya’s goal of training a digital-savvy workforce. The Consumer Federation of Kenya, on the other hand, said the project had noble intentions but was “not well thought out and was politicized beyond redemption.” Many parents also felt there were better alternatives to how the government’s money should be spent when it comes to public education. In order to meet the population’s education demands, Kenya needs 42,000 classrooms. The money used for the laptops could be put towards building more schools to expand the country’s education system. Alternatively, some of the money would be better used to fund more children in the nation-wide school food program, meant to help poor children to stay in school, improve their health, and encourage nutrition.



Next month Catholic Relief Services’ 6th Annual ICT4D Conferencewill take place in Nairobi, Kenya. Through exhibitions, presentations, workshops, and open discussion sessions the conference aims to “provide an opportunity to listen, discuss and test innovative technology solutions with practitioners and providers who are using ICT to build the resilience of communities across Africa, Latin America and Asia”. Over and over again our textbooks and readings remind us of the importance of communication and information sharing in the Digital Age. With the plethora of technologies available now, conferences such as this one can help hone in the discussion to truly relevant issues and encourage collaboration amongst attendees. The conference explicitly reaches out to individuals, institutions, and corporations that seek to “enhance the quality and accountability of development and relief programs”. This sentence in and of itself signals an important shift in recent development strategy outlined in Richard Heek’s ICT4D Manifesto: “ICT4D 2.0” should focus more on improving the use of existing technology and measuring its effectiveness.

All past conferences, apart from the first, have been hosted by African cities (the exception being Washington DC). This signals the importance of an emerging digital market in the continent. Although Africa consistently ranks lowest on ICT indicators in terms of access, quality, frequency, and availability of various technologies it is in fact one of the fastest growing markets: “Africa is the region with the highest growth rates over the past three years and mobile-broadband penetration has increased from 2% in 2010 to 11% in 2013.” (International Telecommunications Union ICT Facts and Figures). This being the case, perhaps the conference should seek to attract actual users as opposed to solely focusing on institutional participants. Providing an opportunity for such individuals to voice their opinions and experiences could offer valuable input to the ICT4D movement as a whole. Currently the conference only offers one type of registration fee- $275 for general admission. Perhaps by offering various types of tickets the conference could attract a wider variety of participants.

Murphy’s Law and E-voting in Kenya

05_Flatbed_WEB - MAY

The fallout of Kenya’s 2007 elections left 1,200 people dead and thousands more displaced after mass-speculation of rigging. For the general elections last Spring, the Kenyan government decided to use “e-vovting” in effort to curb corruption, increase voter turnout and restore its citizens faith in democracy. It was supposed to be the most modern election in African history, in accordance with Kenya’s desire to become a regional ICT-hub. Polling stations had laptop registration centers, computerized voting kiosks with biometric identification thumb pads, and a realtime SMS vote count relay. Quite an ambitious project for any country, let alone one where only 23 percent of its citizens have access to electricity.

Alas, it didn’t work, as NPR reported in March,

First the laptops ran out of battery power. Organizers had failed to consider that African school buildings, where many of the polling stations were situated, don’t have electric outlets. Then the biometric identification kits started to crash. Poll workers didn’t have the PIN numbers and passwords they needed to restart the software. Paper ballots were rolled out and voter lines slowed to a crawl, forcing some voters to wait seven to nine hours in the hot sun to cast their ballots. Voting concluded on Monday, but the tech hiccups did not. A bizarre computer bug multiplied the number of disqualified ballots by a factor of eight, leaving Kenyans livid and demoralized for several days in the belief that more than a quarter-million votes had been summarily tossed out in the incredibly tight race. The SMS-relay system overloaded, too, forcing election officials to airlift poll workers to Nairobi by helicopter to hand deliver the results.

Quite the trifecta from technology hell; nearly every trepidation that citizens and governments alike have when it comes to implementing e-voting became a reality. Fortunately, Kenyan’s displayed an impressive amount of patience and no violence occurred.

Some of the lessons from this rather uninspiring  implementation of e-voting are  obvious — i.e. best check to see if there’s anywhere to power all this technology. It also leaves us with a larger, more disheartening question: can full scale political e-voting work in the developing world? E-voting has been successful in many European countries, but when a country’s ICT infrastructure is as limited as or worse than Kenya’s, maybe using ICTs to leapfrog development deficiencies isn’t the most appropriate approach. The stakes are too high.

iHub: Tech Networking in Nairobi


Across the globe there are many examples of ICT significantly increasing business productivity. In Nairobi, Kenya iHub, a seeks to do just that. Conceived of by the developers of Ushahidi, iHub provides an open forum for members of the tech community including programmers, designers and researchers in Kenya to exchange information and facilitate entrepreneurship. Their goal is to build an ecosystem of both financial and intellectual support around technological innovators and help ideas grow to their desired scale. To date, the community workspace counts over 12,000 members and iHub has developed partnerships with Intel, Google, Samsung, Omidyar, Nation Media, and Hivos.

iHub’s success in networking within the ICT industry are quite clear, but are iHub’s activities truly catalyzing the Kenyan tech community’s growth? Further, is the growth of this industry having impacts on the lives of those not directly associated with the tech community? Membership in iHub is open only to those who are already in the tech field, which may serve as a barrier to potential ICT users. Additionally, it may be challenging for members to progress through the three levels iHub membership. The most basic level of membership, white gives users access to a weekly newsletter, job board postings, event invitations, and entry into the physical iHub workspace one day a week. Members may then apply for green, and finally red memberships which offer further opportunities to grow tech projects and network with investors. However, red membership requires a payment of Kshs 15,000.

Any successful ICT project within a country’s business sector must be accompanied by a desirable business environment and solid governance. Since Kenya is no stranger to charges of corruption, it is important for the government to ensure that it helps to facilitate a climate that is attractive to investors. iHub is a great example of a community driven initiative to spur development within Kenya’s business sector, but its participants would do well to recognize that it will require collaboration with the Kenyan government to be most effective.

Check out iHub’s activities on their website, and read what a UNDP chief thinks about their initiatives here.

Assessing the Impact and Practicality of Mobile Learning in Kenya

Young mothers in Kenya face various social and economic pressures which drive them away from finishing secondary education.  As primary caregivers, many mothers must stay at home to care for their newborns, and this socially-reinforced role causes these mothers to drop out of school, at least temporarily. However, as Ronda Zelezny-Green explains, the period away from schooling is often permanent, even when the mother is physically able to attend school again.

This permanence is due to strong social stigmas against pregnant and young mothers, as well as a general unawareness of one’s civil rights.  ‘Although there is no policy in place that restricts a girl’s ability to rejoin her peers in school, many girls drop out or are sent home when the pregnancy is discovered, are turned away when they try to return to school after giving birth, or are refused the chance to try and return because of the stigma the pregnancy and subsequent birth places on the girl and her family.’

Mobile learning, however, presents a recent option for these marginalized, young mothers still interested in education. Mobile learning opportunities, through programs like Eneza, allow women a great degree of flexibility in their studies, permitting them to complete studies at times most convenient for their schedules. These devices also women to learn at home, away from the harmful physical and verbal harassment directed toward them at school. Furthermore, given that these programs do not require expensive smart phones, they present a cheap alternative to laptop and computer use, and provide a viable path to self-empowerment. Currently, the subjects available are math, HIV/AIDS education, life skills, linguistics, and general science. These subjects allow women to educate themselves for general well-being as well as future employment.



A Kenyan mother cares for her son under a mosquito net.

One valuable counter-argument which the article acknowledges, and with which I strongly agree, is that these mobile programs are often costly, in terms of both the software, the operating costs, and the phone itself. The author explains that many mothers go without food or basic necessities in order to own and maintain a phone. This presents a serious concern, given that mobile learning is intended to empower, not endanger women. If one’s health and safety are affected, perhaps this development project must consider ways to lessen the expense incurred by cell phone usage, possibly through a subsidy or grant of some sort. After all, holistic development as dictated by HDI mandates growth in education and income, as well as health. If women are sacrificing both personal and family health for education, holistic development is compromised.

Overall, however, I think that this initiative is a positive response to a pressing social problem, and am excited to see it progress.

Read the article here.

ICT4C: Information and Communication Technologies for Cows


Source: iCow’s website

iCow is a subscription-based digital platform that allows Kenyan farmers to enhance their productivity. Farmers can access the platform by mobile phone and the web. iCow started as an SMS mobile phone application and has developed into a digital platform with a large array of services. The platform helps farmers keep track of their cows’ gestation calendar and also provides farmers with valuable nutrition and illness prevention tips to take good care of their herd.

According to iCow’s website, there are approximately 1.6 million Kenyan farmers, most of whom use “rudimentary methods to manage their cow’s estrus cycle and milk production.” iCow was developed by Su Kahumbu after she realized how small farmers in poor communities struggled to provide their most precious assets, cows, the care they need.

I grew up in a small farm in rural Panama and I remember how much time my father spent taking care of our cows. The Ministry of Agriculture conducted many workshops in our town with the intention of teaching farmers the best practices of the “cow care industry.” Unfortunately, farmers in lower income countries don’t get the support they need from their governments to increase their herds’ productivity. Thankfully tech entrepreneurs are paying close attention to the challenges of the agriculture sector and are coming up with creative solutions, such as iCow, to tackle such problems.


Kenya Launches National Cyber Security Strategy and Master Plan

The arrival of extensive undersea fibre optic cables in mid-2009 have spurred a major ICT revolution in East Africa with Kenya in the lead and Tanzania following close behind. The transition to broadband has spurred rapid growth in the number of Internet users and increased access for many to cheap Smartphones. Kenya has also been able to achieve faster broadband connection than their counterpart in South Africa. IBM even chose Nairobi for its first African Research Lab.

So, what does all this rapid progress mean for exposure to cyber attacks? More is at stake.

Cyber attacks could be devastating to a developing country on the path to a better future like Kenya. With the ever-increasing reliance upon and use of ICTs to enable more development, comes greater risk. Security problems like the defacement of government websites offering important services as well as attacks on the Banking sector, plus many others can be devastating in developing countries. “The use of ICT in many industries means that national infrastructure such as water companies, power infrastructure, banking and payments are exposed to ICT threats.” (Dennis Mbuvi, CIO/East Africa)  For these reasons, Kenya just recently launched a National Cyber Security Strategy and Master Plan in February of this year:

  • In a nutshell, the Strategy will enable the government, private sector and Chief Security Officer to “[come] up with a national cyber security assets inventory and [establish] approved cyber security vendors.” (Mbuvi)
  • A data protection bill is also in the draft
  • a consultant behind the plan, Tyrus Kamau, says “that its implementation will see better cyber security in the country, which will in turn lead to confidence in electronic transactions, resulting to economic growth. The move will also ensure confidence as the government rolls out various eGovernment services.” (Mbuvi)

Since I wrote my paper on the role of eGovernment in Tanzania, especially with regards to its role in establishing trust among citizens, I see huge potential in the implementation of a policy like this, especially in the rapidly developing ICT sectors in East Africa. I also think it’s interesting how what Kamau said is clearly where the benefits of employing an early plan for cyber security can be seen in developing versus developed countries.  In countries like Kenya and Tanzania there is the need to establish  trust and confidence from consumers who have been living for so long without these services, whereas in more developed countries like the U.S., the biggest threats are less of a concern to the public who is generally unaware so far of their [cyber attacks’] potential consequences. In my opinion it speaks volumes on the need for both developed and developing countries to establish comprehensive plans because regardless of their development levels, cyber threats/attacks can be detrimental to both of their economies, peoples’ livelihoods and overall safety.

From Matatus to Mobile Phones; Kenya’s Growing Tech Success

Throughout the semester we have discussed multiple application of ICTs that aid the the development of nations around the world. While many of these are practical and goal based, I stumbled across and fun an innovatice applicaction of information communication technologies that boosts the economy of the given nation, connects customs of the country to the world and is a catalyst for fun.images-3

The African nation of Kenya has been at the forefront of ICT development for a long time, with incredibly high rates of mobile phone use relative to the rest of Africa. A newer start-up had been in the video game world. As mentioned in the Eocnomist’s Article Upwardly Mobile, Kenya has taken one of their craziest ways and turned it into enterntainment. In the capital city minibuses called matatus fill the streets moving with homicidal turns, twists, starts and stops. Signals are seldomly used, and brakes are used sparingly. With all the excitment they have to offer, Planat Rackus, a Nairobi based start-up, released “Ma3Racer”, a mobile phone game where each user steers a matatu down the street, with the quite unrealistic goal of avoiding pedestrians. Within a month of the games release, .25 million people in 169 countries around the world had downloaded the game.

This game brings the exciting street life of Nairobi to the world, but also demonstrates the growing trend of starts-ups popping up in the past few years. These companies are part of a quiet tech boom in Kenya happening alongside the coffee and safari industries the nation is known for. In 2010, Kenya’s tech related exports reached $360 million, and Nairobi is now known as the “Silicon Savannah”. However it still hold one crucially differential factors from its silican counterparts. Almost all of the tech firms have desinged their programs from mobile phones rather than computers. Why, well for ever 100 kenyans, 74 have cell phone, and nearly 99% of internet subscriptions in Kenya are on mobile phones


As a result of the nation’s tech success, investors ore flooding in. Ranging from small firms like Nailib and 88mph Ngong Road, to Kenya’s largest bank, Equity Bank, opening an “innovation centre” the city has become a melting pot for innovation and growth, focusing most of the investment funds on on mobile technology. GSMA, a global association of mobile operators, is about to open an Africa office, also on Ngong Road.


The tech investment is spurring an increase in Aid, inspriring NGO’s to focus on devleopment of the tech economy alongside agricultural and humanitarian assistance. This growth focuses on solutions to many local problems, but also holds a valuable spot in the global stage, with braggign rights to platforms like M-PESA and Ushahidi. Head of Google in Kenya, Joe Mucheru, says “We need to solve the nitty-gritty first and then we can invent new things”. This is where we say programs like M-Farm, a service that gives farmers access to markt prices via text, and allows them to group and sell products. This helps Kenya, and can be exported to other poor coutnries.

Over all the movement towards mobile phone application development in Kenya will allow the nation to continue to grow in all sectors of the economy, regardless of there geographic position or underdeveloped past.