Category Archives: KY

The other ICT ‘hub’ in Nairobi

Editor’s Note: Everybody has a pre-conceived notion of what an ICT Hub should be. Chris Foster examines the lesser known ‘hubs’ around Nairobi’s busy CBD – which, for many , serve as the first point of contact with technology.  

By Chris Foster

If you heard such a description you’d I think I was talking about the area around the iHub and its’ neighbours, or one of the suburban business parks where multinationals locate – but no, I’m talking about another vibrant ‘hub’ of ICT activity which is often ignored, even maligned.“A growing ecosystem of interacting businesses; hundreds of ICT entrepreneurs pushing to reach lower income groups; a vibrant centre of regional interaction in ICTs”

I want to talk about the growing ICT and electronics cluster located in central Nairobi – a network of ICT sellers, mobile repairers, low cost PC constructors, internet cafes, ICT business services, media producers and pirate DVD sellers – located in a square mile of downtown streets with it heart on Luthuli Street. When myself and a colleague crudely counted the number of ICT businesses in this area around a year ago there were just under 4000 small ICT businesses, including an estimated 2200 businesses involved in mobile phones and around another 1800 in computer and ICT media-based activities.

Sub-divided mobile phone trading in Luthuli Street

Sub-divided mobile phone trading in Luthuli Street

Stepping into the labyrinthine backstreets, corridors and exhibitions of this ICT quarter, it is clear that these are not like the ICT businesses that are often discussed, with firms often less well ordered and clearly defined. But don’t let the surface chaos fool you, this is a heart of ICT innovation with an active set of entrepreneurs involved in driving ICT into the hands of low income users in Kenya and the wider region.

Take the mobile phone activities in this area as an example (which I have been researching). On one level is a complex network of informal wholesalers, mobile sellers and repairers who are the first call for millions of customers in Nairobi and beyond, such channels were reported by one large handset firm to supply over 50% of all consumer mobiles in Kenya. The entrepreneurs here are the ones who genuinely understand the lower income user, themselves often coming from such groups, with knowledge of ICT needs, and the products, adaptations and configurations that fits with the daily lives of such ICT users.

Along with this comes significant mobile phone employment, providing ICT-savvy youth with the ability to become involved in the knowledge economy. Sure, some of the low-end jobs are poorly paid, but they can provide potential to grow.

Take Charles*, who is the owner of a mobile repair kiosk in a back street corridor in this area. Whilst he was educated to secondary level, he had no formal electronics education, and began by paying to become an apprentice in another informal repair store in the area. However, over time he has grown, first he became a repair assistant before finally starting his own mobile repair kiosk. His kiosk is popular as he is now renowned for his expertise in fixing the undocumented and unreliable generic mobile phones that other repairers struggle with.

Almost every week he needs to update his expertise, studying schematics online and interacting with other repairs around the world on mobile repair forums in a local internet cafe. Watching the speed and skill that he diagnoses and fixes problem phones is astonishing; he has built an extensive understanding of electronics and the details of mobile phone operation just through this local training and internet discussions.

A sign showing the variety of ICT activities occurring in just one corridor.

A sign showing the variety of ICT activities occurring in just one corridor.

A Second Dubai

Behind this trading for low income groups, this quarter is also central to another set of interactions related to a regional trade in mobile phone goods. This has grown to a level that some executives I spoke to described Nairobi as on the verge of “becoming a second Dubai”. Firms in this area are the source of huge growth of mobile supply into neighbouring countries in the region, such as Malawi and Somalia, and sellers from Tanzania and Uganda travel into this quarter each day to supply phones for their own markets. Meanwhile such growth as a regional trading hub has meant that Nairobi is one of the first choice locations in Africa for mobile phone firms (both multinational and Chinese-based) to locate, with a growing amount of local research and development emerging.

So what?

So we can say that this network of entrepreneurs serves at least three interesting roles – driving inclusive ICTs, building ICT entrepreneurship and serving as a regional trading hub. For these reasons, it is of value to Kenya and the ICT industry, and should be maintained and nurtured. Yet with its messiness and ‘grey market’ activities such networks are often unfairly characterised by the less savoury and illegal elements, whilst the positive activities of the majority of entrepreneurs are ignored.

Policy and firm strategy decisions made with little consideration can have unexpected effects on such delicate networks of actors, threatening their potential existence. Take the recent mobile phone blocking regulations in Kenya as an example, whilst not the direct intention, in the short-term they are likely to result in a loss of confidence of customers in some of these informal low cost mobile sellers, and this will lead to reductions in the number employed in this quarter.

Such networks also present an opportunity for firms. For large firms focussed on bringing ICTs and services to low income groups, interacting with these entrepreneurs is not an optional component of strategy – just look at how M-Pesa has worked with small agents and Nokia with informal handset sellers – entrepreneurs have been crucial to success of ICTs amongst low income users. Such quarters offer a potential network of distribution of ICTs into low income users – whether you are buying a mobile in a rural area, or a generic PC for your business in Naivasha, likely your product will have been supplied from here.

In addition, the ICT practices and adaptations occurring in such networks are the innovations of the future, waiting to be spotted. Buy the right person a Coke, and you’ll get better insight about innovations for low income users than you will from spending many thousands of dollars on expensive industry research insights!

So, for businesses, policy makers, entrepreneurs, even researchers like myself, I hope that we will more focus on interacting with such alternative ‘hubs’ of ICT activity in the future. This is a network that has so far grown without much attention or support, but it is a fragile one. With more active nurturing and understanding it could grow to become a significant national resource.

*name changed

Chris is a PhD researcher at the University of Manchester, UK. His research work has been looking at Kenya’s ICT sector, particularly focussing on the role of entrepreneurs and innovation in driving ICTs to less affluent users.

For the Love of Gaming

| How they  turned their passion for Gaming into a viable and profitable business

By Joseph Mathai

(Listen to the podcast here)

I’ll tell a story, a story about a little boy. A little boy whose father brought home a computer and he spent hours on that computer playing one of the most fun games. As you may have guessed I was that little boy and in retrospect the “game” was Lotus 1-2-3. I have no idea why I found that particular program interesting enough to be a computer game.

Perhaps it spoke to my passion for video games.  Personally I love games the concept of being transported into another world where you can be almost anything is appealing to me. From the good old days with the Sega Mega Drive, Ending Man and Gameboy’s to current day consoles and computers. As I write this am filled with nostalgia from back in the days being caught by parents playing Sonic when I was meant to be “reading”, that was not a fun conversation and one thing that drilled into me is that video games were a waste of time. But the fact is that the gaming industry has grown into almost unstoppable force eclipsing both the movie and music. As of last year the industry was valued at 65 billion dollars it is kind of difficult to dismiss gaming as a waste of time when we are talking about figures like that.

It is this love for games that led me to Nexgen Ltd a video gaming company founded by Nathan Masyuko, Ayub Makimei and Hilary Murugu. I sat down with Nathan and Ayub to talk about their company and all things gaming.

Ayub Makimei (left) & Nathan Masyuko (Right) co-founders of NexGen Ltd

Tell Me about NexGen Ltd?

Nathan: NexGen Ltd does video game tournaments & events. We also retail in consumer electronics mainly computer software and hardware. We have a huge following of gamers, so we felt that they needed somewhere they could get PC accessories from dealers they could trust, plus we also build custom machines for clients.

You really have to a genuine love for video games to enter this kind of business. Am curious what is your gaming history?

Nathan: From the usual Donkey Kong then I got an original Nintendo in 1994 from my brother who had flown out. Then I got the Sega Mega drive 2 and after that I got the Play Station and I’ve been Play Station all through. I’ve only recently bought a gaming PC. I’ve dubbled in it but nothing hardcore.

Ayub: I started with PC remember GP carting, on windows 3.1 so it just went like that I kept upgrading PC and till now am still a PC gamer. I built my own rig.

How did you guys come up with the idea to form NexGen Ltd?

Nathan: We met in high school but then the seeds hadn’t been planted of partnering up and working together we just knew each other from church retreats. Years later we bumped into each other I was working in a working in company that used to do VOIP telecommunications. I used work the night shifts and it was really boring and he worked in a video library so he would bring me movies. We started talking about our dreams. He wanted to go into computer retail and I dreamt starting a gaming centre where people could come play games and pay cybercafé rates. This was in 2006. Ayub loved the idea and we decided to merge the two. So when my contract ended in 2007 I didn’t renew it, we registered NexGen Ltd and begun the process of trying to convince Kenyans that gaming is a noble, viable & respectable business.

Typical work day at the Nexgen offices

Yes I can imagine that was not easy. What kind of reaction did you get when you first approached potential investors?

Ayub: The first 3 years were hectic. Nobody could see the viability and we were the only gaming company struggling to make it out there, we’d go to all these companies and tell them this is a viable business capable of working and bringing in revenue, but no one was interested.

Nathan: Our business model was different from others. Most people work save up money and start the business in a small cubicle. If you want to build KICC you have to you have to have proper foundations. But to build a kiosk you don’t even need to lay out a foundation. We took it upon ourselves to develop the industry and you can’t do that working out of a stall. In my head we would still be stuck on food, shelter, clothing and two machines which wasn’t viable for expansion. So we decided to draw up a nice business plan and went knocking on doors.  We discovered that people who call themselves investors & VC’s don’t venture into start ups. They invest in companies that have been running for more than 6 months to a year and have financial records which is a catch twenty two because you need money to start your business. But for us proof of concept has been in the last two to three years.

Ayub: In 2009 when we did the WCG games.

Yep the World Cyber Games tell me how you got involved in that?

Nathan: In January 2009 Hilary sent me a link to the WSG. I looked at it and thought food, clothing, shelter we need to sort to sort those out first so I ignored it. In June Chora Bizna begun and my brother told me we need to come up with an idea. So I went online and stumbled on WCG again and decided to send them an email I really had nothing to lose. Shockingly they responded with a list of requirements. We worked hard borrowed money and time was running out but we managed to organise two events at the Village Market. Unfortunately one week to our departure date one of our financial backers pulled out. We were heartbroken but we kept on pushing. One of our players his father was in the sports ministry we tried that route but got the usual government bureaucracy. We finally pulled resources and managed to send myself and another player.

How was that experience?

Nathan: That changed our perspective on gaming. It was like going to the Mecca of gaming. There were over 60 countries represented and over 600 representatives, 80,000 people attended over 5 days. We were the 5th African country to take part.  It was interesting to see people carrying there guitar heroes from home and key boards ready to play games.  With companies such as Samsung, Microsoft, AMD, Razor, and Intel all there to display there products and they don’t cut any costs. It was amazing and well organized.

The Mecca of all gaming
Image Courtesy of

The concept of gaming for living may be foreign to Kenyans but it actually exists
Image Courtesy of

So you are back from the WCG how did participating in the games change your company?

Ayub: It galvanized our company, we now had a better vision. We adjusted our scope since trying to get investors wasn’t working. So that’s how we got into events plus we also begun to plan for servers though we still haven’t gotten the space. At that time there was no gaming centre in Kenya. Now that’s changed with new companies coming up and expanding.

Nathan Masyuko & Ayub Makimei at the LAN party held at the ihub
Image Courtesy of NexGen Ltd

That leads us neatly into your events planning tell me about your LAN parties?

Ayub: They are our most popular events. Gamers love to show of their rigs, we’ve never really had a LAN party for consoles because of the added costs of providing televisions.

Nathan: What we do instead is host the virtual FIFA championship series at K1. We’ve done 8 this year and remember we are doing this simply out of passion.

Ayub: But the LAN bashes are the most popular with several guys showing up and we love the response. VFC’s do maybe 100-200 but the LAN parties exceed 200-300.

The all night LAN party held at the iHub
Image courtesy of NexGen Ltd

Nathan: You just apply and we make space for you. The LAN parties are more of a social gathering than a competitive one. There is that competitive edge where you get to see the top tier of the Kenyan gaming world. But there is also the communal thing where you have free for alls in games like Call Of Duty with everyone running around pulling all nighters. People are friendly and it’s a great atmosphere.

Ayub: It’s a small community compared to other events. Our first parties had 10-15 PC’s maximum where we used to squeeze into a small house everyone knew everyone, but now people come because of word of mouth and it’s a Nexgen event especially the ones at the ihub.

Image Courtesy of NexGen Ltd

How is business doing from a perspective LAN parties & selling products?

Nathan: For us we haven’t broken the glass ceiling because of our capacity. We’re still working from job to job. We’ve had to sacrifice in order to invest in this dream plus I do this because I wish it was something that someone else would have done. Provided me with a place to go and play games and enjoy it properly. On our part competition is great we proved to everyone that this gaming market is viable.

Ayub: What I enjoy now is that we don’t need a proof concept anymore. Our company makes money, our competitors make money. The more people who are involved in the market the more money it creates for all of us because we were the first like Safaricom. So now when we approach an investor they now know about gaming.

Switching gears a little you are also involved in Afroes Company Ltd that develops mobile games, tell me about that?

Nathan: I met Ann Githuku Shogwe the C.E.O. of Afroes in December 2010 her cousin and I used to go to school together. She formed the company after working for the UN for over 15 years.  I had no experience in developing games but I got there because I was the only one dealing with gaming. Personally I always wanted to try it so I contributed with the game design writing (scripting). We put together a small team and developed a game released in May and launched in July called Haki! It’s an environmental rights game. Haki! Shield and Defender.

It’s like Mario you play from left to right fighting evil guys from cutting down your trees. We’ve won a couple of awards. A Tanda grant for it this year and an award at the World Summit Youth Awards. I flew to Montreal to collect the award.  It was great with different competitors developing apps and other tools promoting social change. We actually won for two awards Haki and Moraba which is based on gender based violence. It’s short for Morabaraba a board game played in South Africa nicknamed Zulu chess I tend to think of it like tick tack toe. It’s a very interesting game. So you answer questions about relationships and gender issues like rape. We work with partners to fund the games so that they are free.

Nathan Masyuko at the World Summit Youth Awards 2012
Image Courtesy of NexGen Ltd

Where are the games available?

Champ chase is available on our site it’s on children protection rights. We even disseminate child protection hotlines. Moraba can be found on techjam. Haki can be found on the Ovi or android store.

Now one of the most hotly debated questions among gamers PC or console?

 Ayub: Am a PC gamer when it comes to gaming I think it’s about where you started. I can use a console quite well but my heart got hooked to PC. With the PC I can switch video cards. I like that whole concept of changing. Consoles take long to change their innards. One console takes about 5 years before it’s replaced. I love some of the console games though am usually extremely happy when they come to PC.

Nathan: I am console gamer but my personal pledge is to learn both and enjoy them because gaming is gaming. When it comes to argument of PC versus console its where your heart lies. Whether the smoke looks more realistic on this machine than the other one, am more for the storyline. Gaming is gaming it’s just about the medium you and your dexterity while using whichever machine. The points raised by both sides are valid. It’s better to have a better graphics card when playing some games. But I like console games because the games are standard. You leave you’re pals place beating him up in PS you go home and the game is still the same. I like the standardization. PC gaming though is more fun because you are allowed to do more. There are more patches and extras but consoles are getting more interactive.

Favourite titles this year?

Nathan: It was uncharted 3. They took Tomb Raider and took it to the level it should have been. It’s a fun game to play and has that story element. I am into stories, in Uncharted you don’t feel like you’re doing the same thing over and over plus they just throw you into ridiculous circumstance. Ohhh and Batman Arkham city. This is the first time I’ve felt like Batman it was gritty and they use the voice actors from the cartoons. They build you a city and you have the freedom, I like those games whatever you think you can do. I can’t wait for Grand Theft Auto I think that’s where my life savings will go. Anyone who needs to play some good games I recommend those ones.

Ayub: Hmmm… Tough question am not really a FIFA fun am not used to the concept of controlling people so I don’t even play strategy games that much. I would say this year it’s mass effect. Am playing 1 to 3.


Listen to this interview here: Chit chat about gaming : This is a small part of the conversation we had about gaming where we talk Call of Duty Black  Ops 2, Scary Games, Return To Wolfenstein, secondary school and the fun of LAN party’s. I apologize for the wind and background noise we were sitted outside.


Umati Online Media Monitoring Project releases October 2012 initial results

While most projects related to hate speech have been looking at mainstream media, we are aware of the influence—positive and negative—that New Media such as the blogosphere and online forums had on the 2007 Post Election Violence in Kenya. Therefore, our flagship Umati project seeks to monitor and report, for the first time, the role of new media on an election. Our Kenya-based project has citizens at its core and uses relevant technologies to collect, organize, analyze, and disseminate the information collected.

Find the initial results from monitoring conducted in October 2012 at Monthly results of our initial findings will be released leading up to the 2013 Kenyan elections.

We look forward to your feedback and continuous support.

Vodafone Partners To Use Mobile Technology To Increase Vaccination in Africa

Vodafone, one of the world’s largest mobile communications firm by revenue with approximately 407 million customers partnered with the GAVI Alliance (“GAVI”) and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) in a move that will see  mobile technology used to increase uptake of vaccination in sub Saharan Africa.

According to Vittorio Colao, CEO of Vodafone: “Vodafone is committed to investing in mobile technologies that can transform healthcare in both developed and emerging markets. These partnerships have the potential to save millions of children’s lives in some of the world’s poorest countries and we are delighted to support this critically important endeavour.”

Vodafone and the GAVI Alliance with help from the UK government will reach out to 73 poor countries to obtain new and underused vaccines and strengthen their health systems. GSK, Save the Children and Mozambique Ministry of Health will work together on a pilot program in Mozambique.

The partners will for three years identify how health ministries in GAVI-supported countries in Africa can use mobile technology to improve uptake of immunisation.

Image from

The program has been funded by the GAVI Matching Fund, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the UK Government.

The UK Department for International Development (“DFID”) will contribute $1.5 million cash to GAVI to match Vodafone’s technology and services.
GAVI has at the moment raised $52.4 million and still working towards its goal of raising $260 million by the end 2015.

Increasing Vaccination Through Mobile Technology

The partners want to ensure mobile technology increases  vaccination by 5 -10% in coverage with a pilot in Mozambique in the Save the Children health sites. Save the Children will be the program’s training partner training health workers and supporting the development and testing of the mobile solution.

Vodafone will develop the technology, providing handsets and integrating the solution into the Mozambique’s MOH’s health IT infrastructure. GSK will provide industry expertise and evaluation advice. The pilot will run in 1,500 clinics across Mozambique and if viable will be extended to other developing countries.

Vodafone’s move will help GAVI achieve the global goal to vaccinate more children and reduce four million deaths from vaccine-preventable diseases by 2015. It will also reduce the over 22 million unimmunised child population worldwide.

GAVI has to date financed the immunisation of over 370 million children and prevented more than 5.5 million premature deaths since 2000.

GSK, one of the world’s leading research based pharmaceutical firm believes in what GAVI has been doing and wants to help transform global health using innovative technology.

According to Sir Andrew Witty, CEO of GSK,This new partnership combines GSK’s expertise, knowledge and resources with those of Vodafone to help deliver life-saving vaccines to tens of thousands more children in Mozambique.”

The partners aim that a sustainable and scalable model will be created and could be later replicated in other developing countries to help improve people’s health and well-being.

The partners see the increasing access to mobile phones in Africa as an opportunity for healthcare providers to utilise to save hundreds of thousands of children’s lives.

According to a report by Informa Telecoms and media, by end of 2012 there will be over 750 million mobile subscriptions in Africa. Mobile phones can therefore be used to reach the growing population on the continent to increase the uptake of vaccinations.

The World Health Organisation says vaccinations and provision of clean water supplies are the most cost-effective public health measures to reduce the more than one million children who die every year from vaccine-preventable diseases.

Technology will help reach out to many who can’t be accessed by road or near health centres.

Seth Berkley, CEO of the GAVI Alliance, said that technology helps GAVI reach some of the most difficult to reach areas of the world to provide life-saving vaccines to all children.

According to Berkley: ”Cutting-edge mobile technology has the potential to help us overcome some of our most difficult challenges in gauging stock levels, ensuring vaccines are stored safely and letting parents know when their children are due for a vaccine.”

Image from

Opportunity to Transform Lives Using Technology

And in Africa, everyday the use of technology is expanding more than the access to clean water and health facilities.

According to Justine Greening, UK Secretary of State for International Development  there are over one thousand new mobile broadband connections per minute in the developing world, there is therefore a tremendous opportunity to transform lives using technology.

Greening said: “Britain is a proud partner in this innovative project from Vodafone and GAVI. Opening up healthcare to people through their mobile phones will increase the take-up of basic treatments that make a huge difference to people’s lives and livelihoods.”

SMS texts will be used to notify mothers on vaccination program dates, send health records to both mothers and health workers and also schedule appointments. Health facilities in remoter regions can also use SMS to monitor stock and request for more from their headquarters.

And this is not a trial and error program as the partners are not new in using technology in health care delivery on the continent.

Over 5,000 clinics across Tanzania run on Vodafone’s mobile stock management system and track malaria treatments. Over 1,800 remote community healthcare workers in South Africa access and update patient records using a Vodafone mobile solution.

Opportunities to Look Out For

1. Apply to be a Harambe Entrepreneur

The Harambe Entrepreneur Alliance is a global action network of young African entrepreneurial leaders from academic institutions in Asia, Europe and North America. Harambe Entrepreneurs are spearheading social and business ventures across Africa including Wennovation Hub,Enzi Footwear and Harambe Farmland. In partnership with international groups such as Intel and GSK our Alliance supports engagement opportunities for young Africans seeking to develop their entrepreneurial skills.

Opportunities include:

To review the 2012 recipients and learn more about our Alliance please read the compendium of our 5th annual Harvard University and Bretton Woods Symposium.

The efforts of Harambe entrepreneurs have been recognized by prestigious institutions such as the White House, the British House of Lords, the Parliaments of Ghana and South Africa and the Vatican.

If you know young and entrepreneurial Africans, who could benefit from the opportunities of our Alliance, please share with them the Harambe Advantage and invite them to apply.

Selected candidates will be invited to attend the 6th annual Harambe Bretton Woods Symposium, which will be held at Babson College, Harvard University and the historic Mount Washington Hotel in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, April 5-8, 2013.


Please feel free to contact us at


2. One World Media Awards 2013

Entries are now being accepted for the 2013 One World Media Special Award.

The Special Award is given to recognise an independent media organisation based in the developing world, whose outstanding media content has made a real impact on people’s lives. It is for organisations using media to address social, political and economic issues in the developing world. Various types of media content will be considered, including, but not limited to: investigative journalism, current affairs content, drama or digital media content.

The winner will be flown to London to attend the One World Media Awards ceremony on Tuesday 7th May 2013. See details of last year’s winner, Gem TV from Ethiopia, here.

The One World Media Awards is one of the foremost Awards events in the UK. It rewards the most outstanding media coverage of the developing world and recognises the unique role media plays in supporting social, economic, and democratic development.

To be considered for this category, applications with all required materials must be sent by the final deadline of Monday 28th January 2013 to Late entries will not be accepted.There is no entry fee for the Special Award.

For details on how to enter, visit our website or email

One World Media promotes media that contributes to global dialogue and understanding, human rights and development.


3. TechWomen: Professional Mentorship and Exchange Program

  •  2013 Application Opens December 15th
  • Application deadline is February 10th, 2013

The TechWomen program will identify approximately 80 women who are emerging leaders and entrepreneurs working in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) from the Middle East & Africa for a five-week program in the fall of 2013, including mentorships and professional exchanges at leading companies in Silicon Valley, California, concluding with workshops, networking events and meetings in Washington, D.C.

For more information and eligibility requirements please visit: The application deadline is February 10th, 2013.

Applicants from the following countries are invited to apply: Algeria, Cameroon, Egypt, Jordan, Kenya, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Nigeria, the Palestinian Territories, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Tunisia, Yemen and Zimbabwe.

If you have any questions or need additional information, please visit our website:, including Frequently Asked Questions: Please feel free to reproduce and distribute the attached flier at the following link:

About TechWomen

Harnessing the power of business, technology and innovation, TechWomen brings emerging women leaders in technology sectors from the Middle East and Africa together with their American counterparts for a professional mentorship and exchange program at leading companies in the United States.

Launched by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in 2011, TechWomen builds on her vision of “smart power diplomacy” embracing the full range of diplomatic tools, including technology, to bring people together for greater understanding and to empower women and girls worldwide.

TechWomen is an initiative of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA). The Department of State is partnering with the Institute of International Education (IIE) to implement this program. Please contact us by email at techwomen@iie.orgwith any questions you may have.

“TechWomen introduced me to many role models for women working in the technical field; I was so inspired when meeting with them. TechWomen also gave me to opportunity to visit the US for the first time. It was so different to visit the place, directly interacting with the people, rather than hearing about the culture from a distance. Thank you TechWomen, I had some of the happiest days ever in life because of you!” 
– 2012 Participant from Egypt

TechWomen on the web

TechWomen website:

TechWomen blog:



LinkedIn: TechWomen

Intel in Africa – A Heck of A Fight Part II

(Read Part I)

Intel’s Onslaught into Mobile

Intel’s processors power 80% of all desktops worldwide. Yet, Intel which dominates the processors space, recognizes that mobile is the next direction. It has gradually been repositioning itself not to get left behind in this sector, especially in emerging markets where the growth of the mobile phone , especially the smartphone, is significant. Intel continues to report slower growth in the consumer segment of mature markets, and is betting on emerging markets such as Africa where the growth of the mobile phone is expected to rise.

Mobile Computing Power

The mobile device is becoming more and more powerful as more is demanded of it. Intel, which has increasingly let its customers lead the way, will have no choice but to listen, as consumers demand and expect more from their mobile devices. Intel’s challenge here will be to design chips that are both powerful enough to be used in handsets, and that at the same time use little power – an important consideration for this market, where energy supply remains a problem in many African countries.

Previously, the company has focused on Netbooks, and now Ultrabooks, a sector Intel continues to dominate. However, consumer habits are demanding the dual capability of a productivity device such as the notebooks, and a communication device – mobile phones.  Intel is not about to miss out.

Of course it’s not about to let that happen, which is why Atom (Menlow) was created and why its roadmap has it getting smaller and lower power in future. That’s also why it has announced partnerships with TSMC, LG and Nokia, why it’s buying embedded software maker Wind River, and why it continues to invest heavily in WiMAX.

Intel's first foray into the booming smartphone market producing devices for Lenovo and Motorola.

Intel’s first foray into the booming smartphone market producing devices for Lenovo and Motorola.

Enter Qualcomm

The exponential growth in mobile over the past few years and decline in PC sales triggers the question: how will semi-conductor firms such as Intel be affected? Here, the chipset giant will pretty much be on Qualcomm’s turf. Intel’s traditional competitors have been AMD, Freescale Semiconductor, Texas Instruments, Toshiba, STMicroelectronics, Elpida Memory and Renesas Electronics among others.

Top 5 suppliers of semi-conductors in 2012

Only two years ago, Qualcomm was in ninth place among chip makers worldwide. This is the first time that Qualcomm has ranked as high as third in the chip market. Intel and Samsung are No. 1 and No. 2, respectively.

Qualcomm, also a chipmaker, is one of the companies that has benefited greatly from the surge of mobile devices. This is no surprise when one considers the sheer number of chips that are being produced to go into mobile devices worldwide. Qualcomm, apart from licensing its technologies to other technology companies, primarily makes communication chips for communications devices. Its chips are to be found at the ‘heart of countless mobile devices’.

“China continues to be a big market for us. Africa is one of the new markets and important market for us. We have offices in Africa to support our customers. Steve Mollenkopf, president & chief operating officer, Qualcomm. “We are seeing low cost handsets and future phones. There is penetration of Internet. We are investing heavily in chipsets for strengthening our channels” (In an interview on

All is not lost for Intel however as:

Intel is benefiting from the mobile era in other ways … for every 600 smartphones sold, one Intel server is required. And for every 122 tablets sold, one new Intel server is required.

Where Will Intel Bet Its Chips?

Where Mobile is largely thought to have pushed Qualcomm’s growth as the demand for mobile devices rises, Intel will have to use its position as dominant player to gain ground, especially in emerging markets, which are driving mobile use… Intel is repositioning and adapting to the increasingly mobile world where they are not very relevant now, and has been taking major steps into the mobile market.

They began doing this way back in 2008, when now exiting President and CEO, Paul Otellini identified the company’s expansion into ultra-mobile PCs and Mobile Internet Devices (MIDs) (all low power products) as the future. This meant that whereas Intel’s traditional competitors in computing were IBM and AMD, it would now have newer competitors in ARM and Texas Instruments – both mobile device processor manufacturers.

In September, Intel announced that it would be revealing a “new class of mobile consumer computers called Ultrabooks” , adding that “that 40 percent of consumer laptops will be based on Ultrabook designs by the end of 2012.”

Already, Qualcomm’s advantage is in integration:

It’s the only company that designs the CPU, graphics (don’t forget it bought most of the ATI handheld division from AMD at the start of this year) and connectivity silicon and thus can integrate it all better than anyone else. This integration is what Qualcomm considers to be its key advantage, not only over Intel but over other members of the ARM ecosystem, such as NVIDIA with its Tegra platform.

Snapdragon, is the culmination of all this integration.It is low power enough to be used in smartphones, but high performance enough to run netbook sized devices.

So it might seem that Qualcomm is largely better positioned to take over the mobile ecosystem in terms of chips, but – the company still has to deal with forces such as competition, economy and execution capability in this region.

It remains to be seen, as both companies fight for market share in the region, who will succeed against these forces to dominate the market here in Africa where devices that have low power, yet are able to perform a multitude of tasks are key.

Intel’s advantage here will be its large economies of scale, which it can still rely on, even as it catches on to low power processor cores for Mobile Internet Devices.


Other Competition Points: ‘A Heck of a Fight’

•    3G vs WiMax

Qualcomm has long been recognized as an industry leader in wireless.

The company is the leading patent holder in advanced 3G mobile technologies, including CDMA000 1xEV-DO and its evolutions; WCDMA[17] and its higher-speed variant known as HSPA and its evolutions; and TD-SCDMA; as well as patents on 4G. The license streams from the patents on these inventions, and related products are a major component of Qualcomm’s business. Companies such as Nokia have to pay Qualcomm whenever they sell a 3G device.
A pioneer of CDMA technology, Qualcomm enjoys the “first mover” advantage in wireless communications, which maintains with heavy investments in R&D; and with the recent acquisition of Atheros Communications (ATHR), Qualcomm has strengthened its leadership in the industry.

Wireless Intelligence estimates that the number of 3G users will reach 2.8 billion by 2014. This means that the company is expected to be the main beneficiary of the wireless communication upgrade cycle. The GSM Association expects telecom providers to spend $100 billion by 2015 -in High-Speed Packet Access (HSPA), 3G, and 4G.

Wireless 4G WiMAX technology, on the other hand, which Intel is pushing, delivers “incredibly fast, city-wide access to the Internet at speeds four to ten times faster than 3G.” Intel, has spared no efforts in pushing WiMax for this region.

WiMax, by the way, is an alternative to 3G – which Qualcomm is heavily focused on.

According to Intel’s site, the “WiMax standard supports mobile, portable and fixed service options. This enables wireless providers to offer broadband Internet access to areas underserved by telephone and cable companies.” Faced by Africa’s vast expanses where there are dense areas without connection, one can see why Intel is eager to push WiMax , which can blanket large areas , for the region.

*Why is WiMax important for the African market?

“Africa still offers WiMax a home”

WiMax remains the choice technology in Africa, even as other technologies such as HSPA and LTE gain ground.                      Image courtesy:WimaxBsnl

WiMax Opportunities

WiMax is largely touted as a better alternative to Wi-Fi and 3G, due to its ability to drive cheaper connectivity in Africa. (Other technologies such as HSPA and LTE are still strong contenders for the African market, but WiMax has a longer history on the continent). A wide gap for connectivity still exists on the continent, and the arrival of cables in 2009 has led to an increased demand for connectivity.

One of its greatest advantages is that it is a technology that can address last-mile broadband connectivity, having the potential to make Internet connectivity a reality in rural areas.

•    Industry Collaborations

“Technology innovation is a catalyst, and we believe the changes Intel is making to its roadmaps, together with strong industry collaboration, will bring about an exciting change in personal computing over the next few years.” Intel executive Sean Maloney (On

There are rumors already that Apple could turn to Intel for iPhone Chips.

How the Ecosystem Works Now

Intel has traditionally focused on making chips for the PC market. It has however also been pushing for partnerships with major players in the handset market (LG, NOKIA ), with its lower power chips, such as the Atom processor designed for smartphones and tablets.

Qualcomm leads the ARM ecosystem as it makes chips based on ARM designs.

ARM designs low power processor cores and then licenses those designs to other companies (including Intel) to incorporate in their chipsets.

Intel’s x86 processors are still much more powerful than ARM chips, but ARM performance is more than adequate for smartphones and tablets, and are bound to get even more powerful thanks to Moore’s Law. ARM architecture (and not Intel’s) currently powers Apple’s mobile devices (iPhone and iPad) and Amazon’s Kindle Fire. ( Apple is the world’s largest consumer of semiconductors.

The ARM design offers good performance with lower power consumption, which makes it ideal for mobile devices.

•    Netbooks, Ultrabooks vs Smartbooks

“…We see the emergence of a new category of device, that we’re calling smartbooks to differentiate them from netbooks. These are more like a smartphone in a netbook form-factor. A smartbook is really focused on communications functionality.” Ben Timmons, senior director of business development for Europe, Qualcomm. (In a interview). (2010)

Intel has said it expects Ultrabooks will make up 40 percent of consumer notebooks by 2015. It hopes that under Haswell, it will use 20 times less power than today’s chips in “connected standby” mode, allowing all-day use or the ability to update email and social feeds in the background for up to ten days…The company says that 40 percent of consumer laptops will be based on Ultrabook designs by the end of 2012.(2012)

Intel has been pushing Ultrabooks to help it gain a strong foothold in mobile computing. The Ultrabook is Intel’s version of Apple’s MacBook Air.Its slow adoption to mobile computing has led to its trailing Qualcomm and Samsung who design their chips with ARM architecture. However, if the rumours are true that Apple will indeed make Intel its chip partner for iPhone and iPad, Intel will have gained a significant leap in and stronghold in mobile chips sector.

That, and the Ultrabooks, should help Intel cover lost ground.


Relevant links

Intel in Africa – A Heck Of A Fight Part I


Moore's law

“The number of transistors incorporated in a chip will approximately double every 24 months” – Gordon Moore, Intel co-Founder.

Gordon Moore’s famous 1965 observation has stood the test of an ever-changing technology industry to hold true, 47 years later.

Year after year, Intel® microprocessors have gotten faster, more efficient, more powerful, and yet more affordable … Intel remains at the forefront of Moore’s Law… next-generation 22 nanometer technology-based Intel microprocessors, in production since late 2011, are enabling never-before-seen levels of performance, capability, and energy-efficiency in a range of computing devices. (Source: INTEL)

Intel Founders

The founders of Intel posing with a rubylith of the 8080 CPU in 1978. From left to right: Andy Grove, Robert Noyce and Gordon Moore. (Image courtesy of Intel Corporation.) Read More

Doing Battle in Africa – Who’ll Conquer Mobile?

Betting Big on African Markets

Several global technology firms have set up shop in sub-saharan Africa, and Africa in general, with many leveraging Nairobi’s budding ICT industry as their regional headquarters. Tech firms such as Nokia, IBM, Google, Qualcomm, Microsoft, Samsung and Intel are eager to capture what are known as the emerging markets: India, China, Africa and Latin America.

In 2007, Intel’s Corp Chairman said that the “world’s next 1 billion Internet consumers will come from emerging market…there is only a 2 per cent Internet penetration in Africa,leaving a huge gap…This is not only a commercial opportunity but also poses a challenge and a compelling need for companies like ours to meaningfully invest here and grow the market.” Then, Intel was spending more than $100 million in education and health projects in the developing world. (Source: Associated Press, via USA Today.)

Education: Focusing on education, health, WiMax and investments (Intel Capital – Intel’s investment arm) – social business – is part of Intel’s all-round long-term strategy to gain a firm stronghold in the market, helping it further its commercial interests for years to come. Not to mention building a loyal consumer base and brand recognition.

For example: Lower levels of education in rural areas also limit the scope for information gathering, particularly given that new ICTs such as the internet and SMS services usually require literate audiences. (Audiencescapes Kenya,Differing Communication Patterns of Rural and Urban Residents).

By focusing on education through establishing an accessible and affordable ICT foundation, Intel is preparing citizens to be effective participants in the global knowledge economy. (New Media and Development Communication).

Thus, focusing on education efforts such as providing Intel, in collaboration with the Education Trust Fund, is investing $10.1 million dollars in Nigeria to develop digital curriculum content for secondary schools. Through Intel’s World Ahead Program, the project will promote one-on-one learning through personal computers, with programs covering different subject matter areas. About 150,000 teachers will be trained and over 3,000 computers will be donated to students and schools. Teachers and students will benefit from Intel’s investment, and become trained users of their technology.

Intel’s access initatives with the competitive market also converged with the launch of the the Classmate laptop. The Classmate is a direct competitor to One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) Both laptops have similar capabilities and durability, but the processor in the Classmate is made by Intel, while OLPC’s is produced by AMD, a competitor.

WiMax: A significant percentage of the population in Africa lives in areas that are rural, unserved, or underserved. These service deficiencies reflect a lack of adequate facilities for voice, video, and data communications that, if sufficiently available, could be used to satisfy consumer needs, inform the general public, and provide service training in critical areas such as education and health care. (New Media and Development Communication)

A Chat With Intel’s Executive Vice President

On that note, the iHub Nairobi hosted Intel’s Executive Vice President, David Perlmutter this week. One major takeaway from the Fireside Chat session was the importance of investing in education.

“Government must create the opportunities through investment in education. For example, Silicon valley was built around great universities,” he said. “If you try to copy Silicon Valley, you’ll fail. But put the basics of education and innovative culture…”

Perlmutter joined Intel in 1980 after graduating from the Technion, Israel Institute of Technology, with a B.Sc. in Electrical Engineering. He also received an award for innovation in industrial development from the Israeli president in 1987 for the development of the i387 math coprocessor.

Investment  is critical to the success of innovation. On what makes Israel’s engineers so great, David attributed this to investments.  Giving Israel’s example,David also pointed out the huge role private sector investment has had in Israel. “Private sector mentors the engineers – this is huge in Israel,”  he said.

The growth of Intel Israel is closely interwoven with the evolution of the State of Israel. The Company, founded in 1974 in Haifa with five employees, today employs more than 7,800 people, in addition to indirectly impacting the employment of 23,000 workers in Israel.

While many people know of the close relationship between Israel and Intel, the depth of that relationship may come as a surprise to many: Intel Israel has been responsible for many, if not most, of the processor breakthroughs for Intel, and the Intel Sandy Bridge processor, developed in Israel, was responsible for 40 percent of Intel’s sales worldwide in 2011.

On how the 44-year old multinational semi-conductor chip maker company has maintained its status as the world’s largest and most valued semi-conductor chip maker, David attributes this to Intel’s focus on a  contrarian approach to what the big Intel was doing that led to great innovations.

David advises those in the tech eco-system to “Solve problems that are uniquely yours, and perhaps it can be bigger. A local problem may not have a US solution, for example… Instead of trying to beat other people at their game, find your game and play it well.”

“Great things are happening where you do them. Anything can be done anywhere. Focus on turning your weakness to strength,” he added.

Keeping Moore’s Law Alive

And of course, it would not have been a Fireside Chat if we would not have asked David about Moore’s Law.

“Moore’s is an economic law, and Moore himself did not intend it to live as long. The challenges of investment are in 2 areas: moving from 300mm wafer to 450mm wafer. I can predict how it would be till the end of decade, but not further. 22nm, 14nm products coming, 10nm in the pipeline… prices have gone down, but costs of development/production have gone up. Hence less investment in semiconductor industry.”

On what is exciting now, David mentioned:

  1.  Mobility. Smartphones do more computing than voice – hence should be called computers. Biggest limitation is I/O.
  2. The form that computing is going to take is really exciting, esp if I/O is fixed.
  3. Human/Computer interaction. How could humans and machines interact with each other better?

As to future plans – Intel will be working “more closely with developers all over Africa…Intel views developers as their biggest partners. People buy devices because of the apps.

*Intel has an App store, AppUp. The Intel AppUp center is a digital storefront for existing and new PC software, apps, content and entertainment, developed by Intel Corporationfor Microsoft Windows-based Ultrabook devices, netbookslaptops, and personal computers. (Wikipedia). Intel had 27,000 registered developers by 2011.

Even though the company supplies the processors for more than 80% of the PC market, it has barely even scratched the surface at bringing a solid method for software distribution to all those devices it powers.

However, Intel is excited to work with African Developers with ideas that solve local problems with a potential spin.

How did Intel manage to disrupt from inside Intel?

“Let people with good ideas to develop on the side. “Moonlight hours” have sometimes led to great innovation. This isn’t easy, and there are more failures than successes – but is worth it. Its about isolating people with good ideas and attempting to create momentum around their ideas.

Sound advice.

Intel’s Onslaught into Mobile

Intel’s processors power 80% of all desktops worldwide. Yet, Intel which dominates the processors space, recognizes that mobile is the next direction. It has gradually been repositioning itself not to get left behind in this sector, especially in emerging markets where the growth of the mobile phone , especially the smartphone, is significant. Intel continues to report slower growth in the consumer segment of mature markets, and is betting on emerging markets such as Africa where the growth of the mobile phone is expected to rise.

Read Part II


Kenyan Startup Goes Global

By Sam Wakoba
Kenya’s Sematime is going global just months after launching its public beta version August 10.

According to Boniface Githinji the CEO Tusquee Systems, the firm that developed the software, Sematime has already signed up over 1000 users and due to increasing requests from people across the globe, he says it the right time to take the service to them.

Githinji said,”Sematime has only been available to users within Kenya but we have been getting requests from people as far as the US. We therefore have gone global and at just US 0.04 per text.”

Therefore users in Kenya can send bulk SMS to people living outside the country and users from other parts of the world can also sign up and beginning bulk text messaging simply.

Sematime Goes Global

According to Githinji, all  Sematime features and services enjoyed by its clients in Kenya will also be available to its international users immediately.

Sematime offers  SMS branding,  Sematime for Schools, Sematime Ebills services. The payments methods have also been updated with a new Credit card payments processing via Paypal and an instant-on automated SMS branding.

Sematime was developed by Tusqee Systems which developed School SMS service to enable parents and teachers track their kid’s or students class performance, events and school fees payments from the mobile phone. Sematime grew out of the idea that companies could also use the service to contact their clients.

Sematime is not just a bulk SMS service but an online service also helping firms send bills and invoices via SMS. The firm also does SMS branding,allows sending of long SMS messages with 400 characters, allows firms or individuals to easily add contacts from Excel files and can also be used by multiple account users.

According to Githinji, ”The SMS service will make it easy for users to communicate or send bills and invoices via SMS and also take up free SMS branding to send text messages that bear their company name.”

SMS’s Sent Globally

Sematime SMS is not outlived. Globally SMS traffic this year passed 8.5 trillion according to Portio Research and expected to grow to 9 trillion per year in the next few years. In five years time, Portio forecasts over 40 trillion SMS carried.

According to CNN, in 2013 SMS messaging industry will be worth $150 billion-a-year  with mobile carriers charging a set monthly fees for unlimited texting as much as 20 cents per text from about 0.03 cents per text message now.

Githinji says SMS is still in use and Sematime is not going to run out of business. In the US SMS usage is still strong with 6 billion text messages send daily and stands out as the biggest mobile tool and over 80 percent of the US population own mobile phones.

Sematime will also be a hit in Africa.

According to Informa Telecoms, the number of mobile subscriptions in Africa is expected to reach one billion in 2015. Informa says that mobile subscriptions in Africa will hit over 750 million by year end. Sematime might grab some of these as its clients, if its product proves useful however the market is not free range.

WhatsApp, a free cross-platform mobile messaging app which hit over 1 billion users mark earlier is at the moment looking for translators in a move to spread its user base. WhatsApp Messenger also runs on iPhone, BlackBerry, Android, Windows Phone and Nokia.

In May this year, 2go,a free mobile messenger hit 20 million users and continues to grow. Facebook Messenger is also strongly taking up the space.

Sematime is also awaiting a 2013 Silicon Valley pitch together with four other regional winners for the Startup World’s Grand Finale  grand finale and is opening up its services to the world before its Silicon Valley Pitch.

Imaginarium | Tapping into 3D Printing

By Joseph Mathai

3D printing sounds like an oxymoron doesn’t it? Like saying a fine mess or agree to disagree. When most of us think of printing, it is in 2D on a surface like paper or a t shirt but 3D printing? What if I told you that you could actually print out a bicycle and am not talking about a pretty picture of a bicycle, but an actual bicycle. A bicycle that you can actually ride to work in this trying times of matatu strikes.

Though it has been around for a couple years in design studios and manufacturing plants it is only until recently that 3D printing has begun to cross over into the mainstream.

The perfect escape from the city’s traffic, a 3D printed bicycle.
Image Courtesy of

What is 3D printing?

3D printing is the process of building three dimensional objects using materials such as plastic or metal from a digitally rendered model. It is often referred to as an additive process as the objects are built from scratch unlike other processes like sawing where materials are cut. Basically 3D printing uses layers to create objects. Think about how a typical printer works by laying down ink in a certain line depending on the pattern. A 3D printer works similarly by starting with a bottom layer and working its way up.

There are various methods of 3D printing but the most common are fused disposition model, selective laser sintering and multijet printing. Fused disposition model is where the raw materials (plastic or metal wire) are melted down and sprayed by the printer’s nozzle. As the layer hardens this process is repeated until an object is created. Selective laser sintering creates objects from powder which can be plastic or metal. The laser binds the particles together using layers to form an object. Mutijet sprays an adhesive onto layers of powder thus forming an object.

The potential to print radical designs using 3D printing is almost limitless
Image Courtesy of

History of 3D printing

Despite the fact that 3D printing has only recently started to become mainstream, the first 3D printer was created 28 years ago by Dr Charles Hull who founded 3D Systems, a company which made stereolithography machines used for commercial printing. For several years 3D printers were used to create prototype representations in the fields of automotive industry, medicine and aerospace. Companies would build 3D objects of a product and once approved they would now manufacture it.

But with the advent of cheaper 3D printers such as the Maker Bot Replicator and RepRap, 3D printing is poised to go main stream in a big way. With relatively low costs compared to commercial 3D printers the potential applications for these cheaper printers is magnificent especially in developing nations. For a long time manufacturing products has always been the preserve of larger companies. But imagine with a 3D printer you now become a manufacturer creating your products to suit your own customization needs.

The game changing makerbot 3D printer
Image courtesy of

 How Some Kenyans are Applying 3D Locally

It is probably on that note that the 3D 4D competition which took place in London on October 19th this year. It brought together innovative projects from around with proposals on how use the exciting technology to bring about positive changes in their communities. The slogan was “Relieving Poverty Encouraging Innovation.”

Among the contestants were Roy Ombatti and Harris Nyali from University of Nairobi’s Fablab. Their project involves using 3D technology to print out shoes to fight the jigger campaign. The shoes would be manufactured from reused plastic and would also be recyclable once they are worn out. Apart from the potential help that this project could bring to people affected by the jigger infestation, it can also provide employment for people.

On a global scale 3D printing is being used for some amazing applications in fields such as medicine and aviation. Bespoke Innovations builds customized prosthetics for amputees. In 2009 a major breakthrough was made in regards to actually using 3D printers to print blood vessels and in 2010 engineers at the University of Southampton designed and flew the world’s first 3D plane.

The 3D 4D challenge
Screengrab from

The Future of 3D Printing

So all in all what does the future hold for 3D printing? It is estimated that in 2016 the industry will reach $3.1 billion and $5.2 billion by 2020. Could we be bidding adieu to mass production and hallo to customized products?

Within the country 3D printing could open up a whole new industry by making manufacturing cheaper and more available to everyone. Consumers on the other hand can manufacture their own products. How many times have you walked into a shop for a piece of a product that broke or was lost and can’t find it? Well now you’ll be able to print out a new one.

On the other hand there some speculations that 3D printing could potentially reduce the need for labour in developing nations seeing as people in developed nations will now also become their own manufacturers. But that’s presupposing that local industries in developing nations do not have their own market and wholly rely on work from developed ones.

Whatever the case without a doubt 3D printing is going bring about amazing innovative products as the imagination will perhaps be the only limit to creation. Personally I would print myself a bicycle or a car to get to work, like I said imagination.

Prototypes of the Replicator 2 printing out test items  Photo: Joe Pugliese Source: Read More

Kenyans To Get Virtual Identities

By David Ngige
Kenya will assign each person using the internet a virtual identity to curb the rising tide of cyber crime.

Information PS Dr Bitange Ndemo said the ministry, through the Kenya ICT Board, would soon establish the public key infrastructure, which will allocate virtual identities to internet and digital services users. He said procurement has been completed and the project is now moving to the implementation phase.

“We are moving fast towards records automation and these systems need to be protected because some people have evil intentions,” Dr Ndemo said at a media briefing ahead of the East African Cyber Security Convention 2012 was  held on December 4 and 5. “We will keep reviewing our policies and legislation to keep pace with technology.”

He said there has been a marked increase in cyber crime, especially targeted at banks, organisation registries and mobile services, and called for a joint effort of public and private sectors to counter the criminal acts.

Dr Ndemo said the government is building an ecosystem of cyber security, adding that a research team has been constituted at the Communication Commission of Kenya (CCK) to come up with a counter-strategy.

He noted that many countries were using Kenya as an incubator for tech services like applications and the country needs to have a defence against cyber criminals like hackers to continue being the launch pad for IT services. “Cyber criminals seek to destroy or steal bank records, registries or even cash. You can imagine if they attacked, say, M-Pesa, which hold Sh5 billion at any moment. There would be chaos,” he said.

The East Africa cyber security convention brings together government and private sector players in IT, security and business to explore a common front for fighting cyber crime which, according to IT security services company McAfee, increased by 43 per cent in the third quarter globally and now tops $2.5 billion (Sh210 billion) in revenues.

Cyber Security Africa, which is organising the conference, says cyber threats have been identified as the most pressing challenge to the security of organisations in the region.

“With a few strokes of a keyboard, nation states, terrorist groups, stateless organisations and rogue individuals can launch a cyber-attack from anywhere, at any time, disrupting and damaging democracies and way of life,” said Sammy Kioko, Cyber Security Africa alliance manager.

“Due to the huge scope of cyber threats, it requires active engagement of all stakeholders, including companies in every industry segment.”

He said Cyber Security Africa has this year expanded its scope to include the Huawei Broaderway Forum, which is the main sponsor of the conference. The other partners are McAfee, SmoothTel, Sabric, Cloud Security Alliance, TESPOK, 3G, Eacademy Group and the Ministry of Information and Communications.

He said East Africa is uniquely positioned to become the first region in Africa to develop this model of cyber security. “Our region has unique elements, which if combined and leveraged effectively, can yield innovative cyber security solutions,” said Mr Kioko.

“These include a private sector with a global footprint and an understanding of corporate and international dimensions of cyber security, high tech industry segments that depend on securing assets, renowned research universities and faculty, and informed and engaged public policy leaders.”

McAfee account manager for East Africa Emmanuel Kimeu said the cyber warfare has gone global and even the United Nations has established a unit to deal with it. “Mobile devices, especially Android, are increasingly being targeted, and this will soon come to Kenya,” he said. “The underworld has become a big business.”