KENYA’S FIRST COMPUTER HARDWARE, BRCK


iHUB hardware device known as brck
iHUB hardware device known as brck

what happens at the silicon savannah? what else is Kenya known for except for M-pesa? who is taking advantage of the mobile device market in Kenya?… These are some of the questions that were lingering in  mind some time back. There was a very thin line between mobile innovation, start-ups and technology. Wait until iHUB came along in 2010. Their success stories in the recent past include Ushahidi (ushahidi.com)and kopokopo(kopokopo.com). These projects and their massive number of techies at their premise have enabled iHUB to be one of the leading innovation centers in East and Central Africa.

BRCK (http://www.brck.com/), which is their latest project is a bit different form the iHUB caliber. This is a state of the art hardware that interestingly looks like a small construction brick. Thus the name BRCK.

The hardware is said to be able to offer WIFI connectivity for mobile devices without requiring to be powered by electricity. Its target market, in my opinion is the tourists who come to Kenya not knowing that internet connectivity is a luxury in East Africa. The BRCK devices doubles up as a router, gateway and modem. For more specifications on the devices follow http://www.brck.com/specification/

iHUB founder with his brck device
iHUB founder with his brck device

Many African countries have already beat Kenya to chase being able to make their own mobile phone brands and tablets, even laptop brands. None of these has been innovation but a way to take advantage of the cheap production costs in China. Maybe this could be one of those products that will take the market by storm like Mobile money’s M-pesa or it would not. But the main point to put across to world is that, Kenya is not sleeping in terms of innovation.

By Neville Mugambi.

photos courtesy: brck.com and http://techpresident.com

 

ARE YOU A SILENT VICTIM OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE?


‘I thought he would change ‘…  That is was the first word from Naomi’s lips,  when she told me to write an elaborate piece of her story for publication. with a shrunken emotional side eyes I could trace the invisible pain from that expression,  I met Naomi in Kampala Uganda  I was on a friend house warming party,  I was working on different media blogging projects in Kampala through a friend’s connection to a certain magazine house,.
“why women stay with abusive partners”
… “Domestic violence is incredibly complex.  those who haven’t
experienced it first-hand always say,  ‘why didn’t you just leave?’  ” There’s no simple answer to that question. But in my case, my case my first husband made me believe that I couldn’t survive without him.
“I was 17 when I met Ezra.  He was 32 and a manager at the local radio station.  Getting attention from this grown-up,  Charismatic, successful man was flattering.  Within a year,  we were engaged.
” with hindsight,  I can see how he used his maturity to assert control over me. Because he was older, he knew best about everything.
“my parents didn’t approve of the age gap, but I was a headstrong teenager who wasn’t about to do.
” The physical violence didnt start right away. What I didn’t realize that I was being subjected to a subtle campaign of emotional abuse.  It doesn’t happen overnight.  It’s like a dripping tap,  wearing down your confidence and self worth until everything is stripped away and you’re incapable of standing on your own feet.
“Ezra was moody and bad tempered, and it was always my fault. I was constantly walking on eggshells and apologizing for my wrong doings even when I didn’t know they were.”

no way out
“One evening I told him I was thinking of getting a part time job.  Having finished school I wanted to do something worthwhile and earn my money.
“This did not go down well.  he said I was being selfish and shortsighted,  that I should be supporting him and his needs.  How was I do that if I was to take a petty job as an office messenger girl?
”  I was dragged pushed and slapped.  Any object to hand was thrown and smashed.  My instinct was to leave but I was cornered at the door.  ‘Leave this house,’ he said,  ‘and I’ll take a knife to the dog.’
” The day after the first attack,  I was meant to go wedding – dress shopping with my mum.  I fed her with an excuse and stayed at home.
” I didn’t have the excuse and stayed at home. “I didn’t have the strength to pull out of the perfect traditional wedding that was being organized for us from the buganda Kingdom.  I felt like it was too late to admit I’d made a mistake.
” we married in 1986 (omg I wasn’t born by then I made a joke haha)  she was 19. ” Like most victims,  I soldiered on, hoping life would get better.  But the abuse continued.  Pinches,  punches ands slaps.  A kick in the back or a bucket of water to get me out of bed.”
“He tore stripped off everything ~my intelligence, my efficiency as a wife, my appearance and even my ability in the bedroom.  He threatened to burn my livestock,  to reveal my father’s love life to the papers or ruin his business.  He callously picked on all that was precious to me.
“Our house bore the scars of violence – a cracked fireplace,  broken plaster,  ruined wallpaper.  He ruined countless ornaments, gifts and heirlooms.  I stopped having people over,  especially my family.  I didn’t want them asking questions I was too ashamed to answer.

“Ezra eventually allowed me to get a job at the radio station he was on management team. Now he was the boss at work and as well as at home. ” I don’t believe any of my colleagues had the first idea what was going on.  There were never any bruises that they could see, but putting on a brave face at work was physically and mentally exhausting.
” It was living two lives – one under a big black cloud no one else could see.  The happy, strong-willed,  confident young woman I once was had slowly been destroyed.  I felt incredibly alone.
” I was cut off from my parents and sister.  They sensed I was unhappy but had no idea about the abuse.
” I walked out of him once,  but it only took one phone call to coax me back. ‘ I’m sorry’,  he said.  ‘I need you’,
“Victims go back because women want to see their abuser’s good side and make it work.  We want to believe them when they say,  I shouldn’t have done that.  I love you and I want to make this right. ‘we cling to the hope that they will change,  that we haven’t made a mistake sticking by them that one day we we’ll be happy.  But there is rarely a happy ending.
“In the end,  after five years together,  Ezra left me.  I was devastated and,  despite everything, I was the one begging him to stay –  an example of the hold he had over me.”

.…. A NEW LIFE
“BUT despite having an overwhelming fear of being alone, I didn’t fall to pieces. I found a fantastic lawyer to assist with the divorce.  He me write down everything,  which enabled me to confront what I’d been through.
“To finally open up was immense relief. I no longer had to carry this shameful secret around with me. My family and friends came back into my life and my confidence soon followed. My life started the day Ezra left.

” a lot of women who have suffered domestic violence will tell you that the mental and emotional abuse is far more damaging and difficult to recover from. I believe that after five years with Ezra, it took me another 8 years to recover.

” It wasn’t until I met my wonderful husband Jim in 1997 that I really got over the anger and the desire for revenge. We have three kids Zara nine, Zach six and zuri three.
Now I am a mum,  I can only imagine what I put my worried parents through.
” I was so deep that I couldn’t admit I’d married a monster.  You don’t have to put your hands up and say your marriage was a mistake.
I don’t enjoy reliving this part of my life. But if by talking about it I can give one woman hope or the strength to pick up the phone and get help, then it’s worth it “.

Naomi is working with a publisher friend of mine now in Kampala Uganda.

By: Paul Masidza, (http://alasiri2013.wordpress.com) Bungoma.

FABLAB UON, THE BEST INNOVATION CENTRE


FABLAB
FABLAB

Most Kenyans probably have not heard about FabLab UoN and the activities that go on there. It is a place where electrical and mechanical engineering enthusiasts are abundant. Though even most of the undergraduate students in Kenya taking these courses have no idea of the services it offers. I asked one a random engineering student this week whether they new what goes on in the lab. They told me that they have free WIFI. That was correct but it dint hit the student that this is just one of their hands on projects.

The success of the projects in the lab have led to them winning the Best Innovation center award from Transform Kenya. The award was humbly recieved by Dr. Kamau Gachigi(Director) on 20/7/2014. Their greatest asset is the fabrication resources that they have in their laboratory. From 3D printers to laser gagdets. Here is the Fabrication Laboratory breakdown that has its roots from MIT(Massachusetts institute of technology)

What is the Fab Lab?

The Fab Lab is basically a collection of tools and equipment that leverage the power of Digital Fabrication Techniques in the hands of the average innovative mind.

Fab labs share core capabilities so that projects can be shared across them. This currently includes:

-A computer-controlled laser-cutter, for press-fit assembly of 3D structures from 2D parts

-A larger (4′x8′) numerically-controlled milling machine, for making furniture- (and house-) sized parts

-A signcutter, to produce printing masks, flexible circuits, and antennas

-A precision (micron resolution) milling machine to make three-dimensional molds and surface-mount circuit boards

-Programming tools for low-cost high-speed embedded processors

These work with components and materials optimized for use in the field, and are controlled with custom software for integrated design, manufacturing, and project management. This inventory is continuously evolving, towards the goal of a fab lab being able to make a fab lab.

Fab labs provide widespread access to modern means for invention. They began as an outreach project from MIT’s Center for Bits and Atoms (CBA). CBA assembled millions of dollars in machines for research in digital fabrication, ultimately aiming at developing programmable molecular assemblers that will be able to make almost anything. Fab labs fall between these extremes, comprising roughly fifty thousand dollars in equipment and materials that can be used today to do what will be possible with tomorrow’s personal fabricators.

Fab labs have spread from inner-city Boston to rural India, from South Africa to the North of Norway, and now Kenya. Activities in fab labs range from technological empowerment to peer-to-peer project-based technical training to local problem-solving to small-scale high-tech business incubation to grass-roots research. Projects being developed and produced in fab labs include solar and wind-powered turbines, thin-client computers and wireless data networks, analytical instrumentation for agriculture and healthcare, custom housing, and rapid-prototyping of rapid-prototyping machines.

source: courtesy http://uonfablab.wordpress.com

By Neville Mugambi.

google x in town


Meagan, Solve for X
Meagan, Solve for X

Representatives from Google’s secret  facility, dedicated to making technological advancements such as self driving car, Google glass, project loon and other projects were in Nairobi, Kenya last week. They were to go around the hubs in search for talent. They were in most of the innovation centers including PAWA254. The team were promoting their relatively new activity called Solve For X.

I was lucky to attend their University of Nairobi Solve for X. It was held on Wednesday at the Confucius institute auditorium. The around 100 audiences were kept on their toes by Meagan who was the main host. solve for X is a platform that enables a scholar to declare their x or problem as the audience brainstorm on the solution. The initiative is in partnership with Ted talks. They are planing on hosting more solve for X seminars with different interested parties.

Some of the places toured by Meagan and her team include Fablab university of Nairobi and PAWA254. Keep your ears on the streets for more on this google secretive department and their #moonshot ideas. The solve for X at UON was partly organized by Dr. Kamau Gachigi form Fablab UON.

By Neville Mugambi

 

AIBUMA ANNUAL CONFERENCE DAY 2


AIBUMA stands for African International Business and Management conference. This is an annual conference that is chaired by the University of Nairobi, school of business.This is the 5th AIBUMA after it started in 2010.  The conference was dated July 10-11 at the UON(university of Nairobi) school of Business, Lower Kabete Campus. This years theme was

Business Ethics and corporate social responsibility: The way forward for Emerging Economies

The vision of the AIBUMA organizing committee is to make the UON school of business the leading business school in the region through this organisation. The conference brings together academia and business delegates from across the continent who present academic papers and research related to the conference theme. This year, there are 33 papers that are to be presented for a span of two days, yesterday and today.

Some of the papers to be presented include:

  1. business ethics and corporate social responsibility: A philosophic treatment by Arun Datta phd Kenya polytechnic
  2. corporate governance and performance of sugar producing companies in Kenya by Machuki V.N phD, Rasowo J.O phD, Aosa E. phD
  3. corporate social responsibility discourse from the mining corporation and their communities in Zambia by Shem Sikombe, Lecturer Copperbelt university , Kitwe- Zambia

For more on the AIBUMA CONFERENCE and the how to present a paper visit www.aibuma.org or contact admin/review/editor@aibuma.org

By Neville Mugambi.

Video courtesy KTN

UON C4D FRIDEATION FRIDAYS


Rockesi Pitching their new  idea #FunKE science
Rockesi Pitching their new idea #FunKE science

Pitching to an investor is always a bummer. Me and my boys always come up with these crazy games to help us improve our pitching skills, for instance each person gets a minute to present an idea to the team and see if they bought it. Sometimes it works sometimes it doesnt. C4DLab gives teams a chance to present their idea to this huge group of majorly computer science and at the end get very constructive feedback on their presentation.

The #Frideation gig starts from 4pm and goes up to around 6pm. At the entrance, the C4DLab team show you where to sit as their photographer(@MADEkarubiu) captures every moment. The usual room setup is a projector pointed at a whiteboard and sits arranged behind the setup.

c4dlab-slogan

Here is a list of the startups that are lined up to pitch at the incubation center this year. Most of the Startups are by students from UON (University of Nairobi).

 

STARTUP NAME DESCRIPTION PRESENTATION DATE
Throughpass Africa Throughpass Africa is a soccer recruiting and betting platform 16/5/2014
Techxus Systems Techxus Systems have developed GeoAddress, an alternative addressing system for both personal and enterprise users 23/5/2014
Chura Ltd Chura aims to ease the difficulties users experience in accessing services across different mobile service providers 30/5/2014
RocKeSci Science platform that gets kids interested in science at a very young age and helps them understand key science concepts that are in their syllabus via funky experiments and tutorials that are more suited to the east African market 6/6/2014
Creatix Systems Creatix Systems offers enterprise solutions on the cloud. Main products are Integrated Human Resource Management and Customer Relationship Management Systems delivered through SaaS 13/6/2014
FarmDrive FarmDrive seeks to connect smallholder farmers to investors who want to engage in farming but don’t just have the time or the land to do so 20/6/2014
Ideal Animations Ideal Animations is a 3D animation studio that brings a fresh and innovative approach to the budding Kenyan film and advertising industry. 27/6/2014
NESBIT-COMP Create equipment for all the facilities where students use computers such as the libraries and classes. This equipment is to be placed at the entrance of these facilities 4/7/2014
Telvic Parking Solutions Provides a system that gives motorists a chance to query it in order to be answered on the location of the parking lots, the availability of the spaces and the guarantee that there are actually spaces in real time, through various avenues, such as mobile applications and SMS service 11/7/2014
RaveApp RaveApp applies the concept of matatu pooling to help those who go out to rave to conveniently get a matatu to their various homes without having to wait for long hours for a matatu or even worse missing one 18/7/2014
Tevat Tevat is a company whose aim is to tap and aid high-growth producing Entrepreneurs to raise capital for their innovative ideas more easily and conveniently. 25/7/2014
Intelligent traffic Intelligent traffic is building a traffic garget that can help drivers not to break traffic rules 1/8/2014

By Neville Mugambi

Top Banks For the Year Ended 2013


KCB BANK NEW HQ (UNDER CONSTRUCTION)
KCB BANK NEW HQ (UNDER CONSTRUCTION)

1 KCB Assets of Kshs 323 billion , and profits of Kshs 17.74  billion
2 Equity
3 Cooperative
4 Standard Chartered
5 Barclays
6 CFC Stanbic
7 Commercial Bank of Africa
8 Diamond Trust
9 NIC
10 Investment & Mortgages [Assets of Kshs. 110.3 billion , and profits of Kshs 6.05 billion
11 National
12 Chase
13 Citibank
14 Bank of Africa
15 Baroda
16 Prime
17 Housing Finance
18 Family
19 Imperial
20 Ecobank
21 India
22 Guaranty Trust (formerly Fina)
23 ABC
24 Consolidated
25 Gulf African
26 Development Bank of Kenya
27 Equatorial
28 Victoria
29 Giro
30 K-Rep
31 Guardian
32 Fidelity
33 First Community
34 Habib AG Zurich
35 Transnational
36 Habib
37 Paramount
38 Credit
39 Jamii Bora
40 Oriental
41 Middle East
42 UBA
43 Dubai Assets of 2.92 billion