Wednesday, 21 October 2015

2015 Tanzania Elections Infographic

The above infographic is made from information collected from official Facebook and Twitter pages of the 2 presidential candidates.

Additionally, information from Google Trends which represents relative interest in terms of Google Searches has been added, based on 30 day and 7 day interest in the 2 candidates.

Google Trends does not show the total number of searches. Google explains "The numbers that appear show total searches for a term relative to the total number of searches done on Google over time." Thus a decrease in numbers for the 2 candidates means popularity is decreasing compared to other searches ie, people are making more searches for other terms, not necessarily that fewer people are searching for the two.

Friday, 16 October 2015

Beers in Kenya: A sober opinion

Peroni - One of the best beers in Kenya.
Did a taste of canned and bottled Italian, and bottled Tanzanian
I like the tangy flavour and body in Tanzanian Peroni. The can is close.
Heineken drinkers will like the Italian one. 
I have had a short beer swigging stint in my life. It has however been long enough for me to share my opinions of Kenyan beer. Interestingly, over the course of sharing such opinions with other drunkards connoisseurs,  I have found that we all have different views as to what beer is the best, which one makes you too drunk, or which one gives a free,  extra hangover for every hangover you get from it.

For starters, like everyone else, I discovered that beer isn’t as sweet as it looks like in those adverts that show golden barley swaying in breezes,  happy men smiling and toasting chilled, foaming glasses of beer as a deep voice does some narration in the background.

Beer is bitter! Now, it turns out beer is intentionally made bitter. See,  beer shares the same ingredients as bread. The major difference is that bread isn't fermented. Bread is sweet, so why isn't beer sweet?

Thursday, 15 October 2015

To ensure emergency hospital admissions for all, Kenya needs to pay hospitals

An accident scene on Mombasa Road.
Many emergency hospital admissions are usually from such scenes, with the
patient barely conscious and neither in a state to settle out formalities of  payment
before admission. 
Last week, we were confronted with the story of a patient who spent 18 hours in an ambulance, waiting for medical care. The road accident victim,  who needed Intensive Care Unit admission, found our national referral hospital - Kenyatta National Hospital, did not have any vacant ICU slot. It is said other private hospitals refused to admit the patient, though only one hospital got mentioned in the incident.

Though one may be forgiven to think that this was just a single occurrence - the feeling is that the situation occurs quite often, and that the case here only happened to stand out by making it to the newspapers.

Kenyans are outraged. They feel that hospitals, especially private ones, that refuse to admit patients before a payment deposit is made, are being greedy. They feel that such hospitals should not be driven by pursuit of money, and instead, should offer treatment first, then pursue money later. They feel that a hospital insisting on a deposit for treatment is breaking the Hippocratic oath, and not being humane.

There have been calls for stringent laws to ensure that hospitals don’t turn patients away because of inability to pay. We have been here before, and I believe there are existing guidelines or laws that direct hospitals to take in patients first, and deal with payments later. That these do not work shows that there is a problem. Furthermore, trying to reimplement the same is likely to run into the same challenges, sooner or later.

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Slut shaming: We all need to stop punishing women's sexuality

Do your parents know you have sex?

Do your friends know you have sex?

For most of us, the first answer would be no. Coming to the second question, the answer will likely vary, depending on your gender.

For a man, having sex is a source of pride and esteem. In fact, to our friends, the more people we have sex with, irrespective of how good or bad it is, it is something to toot your horn about.

When it comes to ladies - the situation is a little different. For some, your friends are okay with you having sex with a regular boyfriend, but will probably judge you for having sex with partners that aren’t your boyfriend.

To some ladies, sex outside marriage remains unthinkable to their parents, who consider such a thing taboo. The same parents, however, tend to be okay with their sons having sex, or even having a string of girlfriends. Such behaviour in male children is likely to be viewed as virile, but their female siblings are expected to remain "chaste".

The irony of being proud of a “roaming” son while expecting the the opposite of a daughter is lost on such parents - who are their sons having sex with?

Friday, 2 October 2015

How Kenya imports its IT innovation

Whenever people mention Kenya as being an innovate country,  or Africa’s most innovative country,  they will often go ahead to list examples. M-Pesa and Ushahidi. One would be mistaken to think that all these years,  nothing much has happened in Kenya,  besides the two. That,  however is the challenge of cliche presentations,  which pick up punchlines from other presentations on the Internet. Until those who first listed M-Pesa and Ushahidi as Kenyan innovations add a few others to their lists - we may have to settle for these two being descriptive enough.

Now, I was here to talk about innovation in Kenya. I’ll be talking about much more than M-Pesa and Ushahidi.

I happened to be hanging out with a few hardened and debugged developers yesterday, as Ushahidi launched what has been the result of 3 years of effort,  a revamped,  much more robust platform.

I got into a discussion with these developers. M-Pesa was founded in Kenya by researchers from the United Kingdom. The product was modelled off the observation that mobile users in a number of African countries were using airtime as a form of money transfer. They would send airtime to their relatives,  who would then redeem it for money. Development was funded by the Department for International Development UK (DFID).

Another of Kenya’s innovative solution, though not as famous as M-Pesa,  is a chain of schools known as Bridge Academies. These schools provide quality education to lots of Kenyans, especially in low income areas and at an affordable fee of KSh. 500 a month.  Bridge Academies tackles a number of challenges in our education system in an innovative way.

Bridge operates a network of 405 nursery and primary schools. 880,000 students sat for the national Kenya Certificate of Primary Education last year,  which indicates there are about 8 million students in primary and nursery students in Kenya. About 100,000 of this school at Bridge Academies.

How does Bridge ensure that all these students,  be they at a school in Mukuru in Nairobi,  or one at Mairo Inya in Nyahururu, get the same quality of education? Technology. Bridge Academies employs a host of teachers,  who are then provided with tablets. These tablets have lesson plans and content for each lesson delivered via mobile Internet. Thus, each class 8 Bridge Academy student will have undergone identical lessons, and covered the curriculum to the same extent, irrespective of who was teaching them.

Technology here, is enabling low cost delivery of quality and standardised education. Automation here, has solved a problem, rather than do what many assume would be the result of deploying tech in education - the replacement of teachers.

Besides quality education, access to quality and affordable healthcare remains one of Kenya’s biggest problems. Many a public hospital is in much a state of neglect, with problems ranging from a shortage of wards, equipment, medicines,  and most of all, staff. Many hospitals also tend to a be a distance away, especially in rural areas.

Private hospitals remain few and costly, and even the more affordable ones face the same issues as the public ones. Consultation fee for a single visit in a good hospital will set you back KSh. 3,000. A Cesarean Section birth in a hospital whose name you can’t remember will cost you KSh. 110,000. The minimum wage in Kenya’s capital city is KSh. 8,000. Worlds apart, evidently.

Enter AccessAfya. Starting in Mukuru too,  The Economist reports AccessAfya now consists of two clinics, which see patients at a consultation fee of KSh. 100. Patients information and records are managed via iPads,  and sent and stored in the firm’s headquarters. Inventory software automatically keeps track of medicine stocks,  ensuring they never run out.

Patient’s get follow up calls on how they are doing,  and get alerts when a communicable diseases strikes their neighbourhood to enable them take preventive measures.

AccessAfya will soon open 3 more clinics in Nairobi. The NGO behind the clinics is founded by Melissa Menke, a US citizen. Donors include Canada’s Grand Challenges Canada, and the US’s USAID.

Notice anything common here? Just like Uber has made many Nairobians find taxis affordable and worth their money,  by using technology to not only make taxis more efficient,  but to manage a taxi service, so is what is happening in all these sectors.

Secondly, all these solutions seem to heavily involve foreign founders, and foreign funding. Kenya’s innovative tech revolution, is being driven by foreigners.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I have no problem with foreigners being behind these solutions. After all, don’t we spent a lot of Kenyan taxpayer money chasing foreign investors?

My question is why we have to wait for foreigners to ship in innovation. Kenya has a skilled tech sector, including locals who export solutions all the way to West Africa, and even some who have developed solutions for some of the names mentioned above.

I have a couple of friends quietly working on their start ups. They are Kenyans, but the funding again seems to mostly come from foreigners.

Again, with some of the developers (and other industry players) I was with last night, we came to a few conclusions.

For starters, networks. Most of the foreigners mentioned above are educated in leading institutions such as Harvard, MIT,  Cambridge and others. They not only have a good education,  they have access to other brilliantly educated people, and most of all,  to people who not only have the ability to fund them,  but believe in them. The US and UK have more capital to run businesses by the mere sizes of their economies. What’s a large amount here is a small amount there, and ends up doing a lot here.

Secondly, Kenyans seem to rarely invest in ICT startups. There’s a better return for your investment in real estate, government and other sectors. Surprisingly, even some of the developers I was with admitted that they had invested the money they had made from tech in other sectors besides tech.

Related to this, is my mostly fronted argument that Kenyans in general have a poor relationship with data and information. We don’t place much value in collection and storage of information and data. We are a verbal and person-person relation based culture.

Many business owners do not know how many customers they handle per month,  where these come from,  how many return, etc. We simply do not collect such data. If we do not have data, we than do not have an opportunity to learn and improve on what we are doing.

Additionally, we are yet to form a habit of automating our businesses. Labour in Kenya remains cheap. As an example,  a business will therefore pay 3 employees KSh. 10,000 a month each to do a job, rather than invest in a KSh. 500,000 system which would do what these employees do.

We tend to see the cost of automation as an expense, rather than an investment. The problem with jobs that can be easily automated is that they tend to provide no additional value to a business. Basically, you can’t differentiate yourself with your competitors here - unless you serve a niche market that places a premium on hand crafting.

Automation increases efficiency by increasing output,  standardising output and ensuring it meets a certain quality. Unlike humans, automated solutions do not suffer from mood changes, exhaustion or even distraction.

An often overlooked benefit of automation is that it frees up your employees to apply their skills in other specialised areas which add much more value to your business. Mundane,  repetitive tasks do not add any value to your business, and you may find,  tend to be among the leading causes of customer issues - delays, varying quality,  among other issues.

If we as Kenyans are to see phenomenal growth in our industry, we must start seeing the potential ourselves. The foreigners investing in IT based solutions in Kenya know tfee possibilities of such systems.

Heck, KSh. 4.18 trillion was transacted in the last year on M-Pesa. Kenya’s economy was worth KSh. 6.3 trillion in 2014. See, this is the value that simple automation of a sector can achieve.

It’s time we started automating our businesses, our lives, government and appreciating technology for what it is worth in our lives.