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Wednesday, October 26, 2011


Big Blue clearly didn't come here to sleep. It keeps inking them. Let's tick them. Airtel, Safaricom, Central Bank of Kenya and now, The Kenya Petroleum Refineries.

IBM has announced that it has signed with KPRL to provide a solution to increase productivity and efficiency of the companies operations.

This system called Maximo asset management software, "will allow KPRL to manage, measure and track the life cycle of its oil processing equipment such as pipes, heat exchangers, pumps, valves, boilers, furnaces, compressors, tanks and turbines."

No mention of blackouts though. KPRL has typically wrought havoc on the petroleum market especially around Christmas with its breakdowns which it attributes to power failures from fellow Energy parastatal Kenya Power. 

Apparently, the catalysts that kick in the process of refining Super/Petrol take up to six days to bring the process back online. 

Of course IBM has also been providing servers to CBK through Symphony for sometime though the last contract was based on the four day cheque clearance system.

With the introduction of cheque truncation, no word yet on what system the reserve bank is using.

And Airtel are currently overworking IBM Kenya's business services team. Tasked with offering business support services to Airtel Africa, the Kenyan team has been especially under pressure given the cut throat competition in the market.

Basically, the former Airtel business intelligence team was ported over to IBM just like IT went to Nokia Siemens.

But things have been hectic with all the departments from sales and marketing to different directors making different requests and terming them all urgent.

Things have eased somewhat with Safaricom increasing their tariffs forcing people to make more of their calls on Airtel. As a result, revenues are looking up.

Enter Safaricom and M-PESA. IBM runs M-PESA operations on behalf of Vodafone after it took over from the company that developed the platform for Vodafone in the first place, Sagentia.

Despite the company issuing two white papers on how money transfer services should be run it seems the platform is yet to get there.

The outage the other day was blamed on lack of connectivity between Safaricom and its M-PESA data center in Germany.

IBM, we were told were working full out to solve the problem.

Indeed they did.

Looking forward it is likely that Big Blue will eye more and more of the business services opportunities that will arise in the region particularly in e-government.

The company is among those slated to take up space on the proposed ICT City in Konza along with Samsung and a host of other companies and universities.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Muthoka to boot Mobicom? AndyForwarders calls CMC EGM

Mobicom's Paul Ndung'u (left)
It seems the battle over CMC motors is just beginning. Now Andy Forwarders CEO Peter Muthoka has called for an Extra-ordinary General Meeting of CMC shareholders with the agenda being to remove a number of directors including: Paul Ndung'u and Joel Kibe (chairman) both men associated with Mobicom, Andrew Hamilton, and Billy Lay (current MD).

At the EGM to be held at Bomas of Kenya on Monday 21, November, Andy Forwarders will seek to have Mark Ole Karbolo who has chaired East Africa Portland Cement, Professor Francis Mwihuri Njeru of JKUAT and Peter Mbuthia Gachuhi of law firm Kaplan & Stratton to replace them.

Apparently, Muthoka wants Ashok Shah of APA Insurance who is sitting on 12.5 per cent shareholding to back him and probably some proxies of some of the guys who may not like the Mobicom duo.

Muthoka has about 24 per cent shareholding putting him in prime position to stage this move.

Nothing is known of his recent woes. Just recently, one of his bank accounts at Family Bank was to be frozen with Sh180million as investigations continue. We will update on what happened on that front but for now the battle lines are set.


UPDATE: We called Paul Ndung'u and he says he has just landed in the country but he says he had seen that mail earlier so it is only now that Muthoka and co have decided to send it to shareholders. He didn't sound ruffled: "Let's talk tomorrow," he said.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


It's confirmed. Nokia and Microsoft will show the first Windows Phone from the Finnish giant next week. After taking a battering from Apple and Samsung with fast rising Sony Ericsson also eating into the smartphone segment, Nokia is looking to rebound with its Windows based phones. On Tuesday, Nokia staff here refused to say anything regarding the Windows phone. "Stephen Elop (Nokia CEO) sent each of of us an email warning us not to say anything,"  a senior local manager said. 

One man Elop cannot gag though is his former boss at Microsoft, Steve Ballmer. Speaking on a wide range of issues, Ballmer today confirmed that Nokia will indeed show some Windows phones next week. 

Timing will be key. Apple is still riding the momentum of its iPhone 4S which has already done 4million devices sold over the weekend of the launch. Samsung after waiting for a respectable period since Steve Jobs death has now released the Samsung Galaxy Nexus running on Google's Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) OS.

So Nokia's announcement along with the heft of Microsoft whose Windows platform still runs 75 per cent of the computers used in the world is likely to be a big deal.

On why you might want to buy Windows phones instead of an Apple iPhone, Ballmer told Forbes that, "Your information is front and center, not a sea of icons."

Monday, October 17, 2011

Blackberry offers free Apps to compensate users

From Me 2 U
We took part in a conference call with Patrick Spence, Managing Director Global Sales and Regional Marketing at RIM.

RIM is offering free premium apps to its customers to compensate them for the recent outage.

Spence says the Apps are worth about USD100 (Sh10,000). He says a switch failed and the backup switch did not kick in leading to massive backlog.

RIM it seems moves 22 terabytes of data on its network every month.

"That caused a situation where we had to catch up," Spence told conference participants made up of ICT journalists from South Africa and Kenya.

The Apps will be available from this week to December.

Spence says the Apps chosen were picked based on downloading trends.

Apps available include:

  • SIMS 3 - Electronic Arts
  • Bejeweled - Electronic Arts
  • N.O.V.A. - Gameloft
  • Texas Hold’em Poker 2 - Gameloft
  • Bubble Bash 2 - Gameloft
  • Photo Editor Ultimate - Ice Cold Apps
  • Pro -
  • iSpeech Translator Pro -
  • Drive Enterprise -
  • Nobex Radio™ Premium - Nobex
  • Shazam Encore - Shazam
  • Vlingo Plus: Virtual Assistant - Vlingo

Monday, October 3, 2011

Where's the Tandaa shortlist? Kenya ICT Board asks for time

Scribes, bloggers, developers et al this year have an eagle eye trained on the process of awarding the Tandaa applications development grants particularly for integrity and transparency.

While the Board said it would issue the list of shortlisted applicants by end of September, yesterday it said it would do so by October 10.

No explanation were given in this one line response from Kaburo Kobia, the project manager of local digital content when asked for the update.

"We are a week behind the review. We will announce on Oct 10."

However, the board went ahead and updated its Tandaa website:

Greetings! ,  

The review of proposals received for the Tandaa Digital Content Grant is still on going. We had hoped to announced the shortlist at the end of September, but we are yet to complete the review of the 795 proposals received.

The good news is that we are only a few days away from completing the review of the first phase of the Call for Proposals.

As such, we will announce the shortlist in a week's time on October 10.

We appreciate your patience. We are committed to ensuring that every proposal is reviewed adequately.   

The following response was also posted on Twitter.

the shortlist will be realised in a weeks time .please keep checking our website and newsletters


Being late by a week is fine and understandable but the Board must be cognizant of the apprehension and suspicion that some developers already have about the process. In particular, it has been accused of either engaging in favouritism or not being transparent in how it chooses its judges for these contests. Complaints have been made that the same clique of people is seeing playing different roles at different times from judges, to speakers to award recipients. This should not happen in a field that thrives on disorder and randomness and innovation.

You cannot have an IT industry that is ordered and sequenced and mid wifed by the same people like say the legal profession where young lawyers learn at the knees of the older counsel.

IT is an industry that by its very nature is disruptive! It is an industry where you stop for lunch, you become someone else's lunch.

You sleep like Infoseek, Yahoo comes along and dethrones you. You sleep like Yahoo, Google snaps you up. Like Nokia, Apple and so on. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and so on form the next wave of innovators.

In short, what we expect is freshness and disruption. We don't want to see the same people pitching different apps as if there aren't  any more innovators out there.

For its sake and for the sake of the Tandaa Grants, which incidentally, are public funds, should be quick to announce the short list of applicants and the list of those who will judge entries to determine final winners.