A pre-analysis of Jubilee’s One Solar Laptop per Child Initiative(OSLPCI)

Samsung Solar Laptop

Samsung Solar Laptop

During the recently concluded electoral campaigns President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Deputy William Ruto captivated the minds of Kenyan parents with a promise of delivering to every Standard One pupil entering school in 2014 a solar powered laptop to enhance and aid their learning environment(see video below).

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As expected many Kenyans were sceptical given the perception that many Government projects begin with pomp and fury but end up as duds; wasting billions of shillings that could otherwise have gone to more basic and immediate needs.

I thought it would be prudent for us to examine through a Strength Weakness Opportunity Threat( SWOT) analysis the feasibility of such a project in present day Kenya.


  • Kenya has a reasonably developed ICT Sector with 3G and Fibre internet connectivity across most of the country that can support remote management of the project.
  • Kenya has a good number of Hardware Companies that have a track record in assembly and distribution of hardware that can be relied on to install and deliver the necessary equipment if need be.
  • Kenya is home to major technology players such as Samsung, Huawei, ZTE, Microsoft, IBM and HP who can be entrusted to deliver both the hardware and software platforms needed to create the eco-system needed for such a project.
  • Kenya has a sufficient number of trained personnel at every level of the project delivery chain to sustain the project albeit if well organized.
  • Kenya has the capacity to train personnel should there be a shortfall within the aforementioned value chain.
  • Kenya has many Non Governmental Organizations(NGOs) that have built vast experience in delivering similar projects across other sectors. This experience can therefore be tapped into to help create a robust plan to mitigate against the following weaknesses.


  • Many Kenyan educational institutions are stuck in what we could call an “Analog” mindset due to many years on poor funding and lack of training in modern educational techniques. Mindsets would need to change through an evolutionary process that all stake holders buy into.
  • Kenyan Governmental institutions have only recently begun improving their professional standards and therefore they would need to continue to up their efficiency levels to sustain such an ambitious project.
  • A lot of the backbone infrastructure needed to support this project is either lacking or outdated in many parts of Kenya. This includes electricity, data connectivity, storage facilities as well as the school infrastructure itself.


  • This project could have a single point of failure that could easily be overlooked which is the Social/Cultural adoption of this new technology by all the stake holders in society. This is because this project attempts to bridge the old and the new, the Analog and the Digital,  the Traditional and the Modern. How will the Jubilee Government address this cultural issues facing this project? Will parents trust their children to their devices? Will communities appreciate the content their children are being exposed to such an early age? Will experienced Government technocrats in the educational sector work with youthful “geeks” at the same level to deliver this project successfully? Will chalk board teachers adapt to new methods of teaching?
  • How will the project be financed and sustained while mitigating threats such as corruption and wastage of funds?
  • I trust there are experts within the Jubilee team who will address these issues given the efficiency with which they ran their election campaign. In my humble opinion the Opportunity this Initiative presents in terms of addressing a myriad of societal problems is to huge to be ignored or poorly executed.
  • The biggest opportunity of this project lies in the early exposure of young minds to technology and information that could allow for development of individual talents and skills from an early age. If you think about some of the Worlds best technological and scientific brains like Steve Jobs(Apple Inc) and Mark Zuckerburg(Facebook Inc) many had exposure to technology from a very young age (Watch Video Below). It is likely that a sustained OSLPC initiative will in the long run create our own local technological giants and safeguard Kenya’s position as a Technological Hub i.e Silicon Savannah.

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  • While the Technology Sector is likely to be the biggest long term beneficiary. The OSLPC Initiative is likely to have a positive socio-economic impact in the following sectors Education, Health, Energy and Agriculture given the kind of content that is likely to be adopted and curated for these school going children. I would actually advocate for localization of content to County Level to meet the societal needs and aspirations of Kenyans wherever they are.
  • It will also be important to expose the children especially as they grow older and head into their Secondary School years to more Open Internet Based Platforms like the Khan Academy which provide engaging content that can equip young people with access to information more relevant to their passion and needs. In my view Interests Based Education could be much more effective than Formal and Standardized education. They beauty about this approach is that it is something that can be implemented fairly quickly for older students through other initiatives like One Computer Lab per School.
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Indeed the opportunities the One Solar Laptop per Child Initiative offers are endless. The question remains what innovative ways can we come up with to ensure this project kicks off in the new year in a sustainable way.

I look forward to your suggestions, comments, criticisms and Ideas below; as I believe your contribution to be so important to the fruition and success of this initiative so much so that the future of our Kids literally, figuratively and DIGITALLY depends on it!



The challenge of building “African” platforms…

Picture by The Economist

What is an African platform? What does it look like? and perhaps more importantly what does it do? Will it address a Need or a Want?

What exactly will make it African? Will it work elsewhere in the World? or Will it address uniquely African problems?

What are uniquely African problems?

Is there such a thing as an African Market Place? If so Where is it?

These are questions one must ask themselves in the quest of building “African Platforms”.

I subscribe to the view that the African Platform will be Mobile and it is on this canvas that relevant applications/services will emerge and those that will win will be those that help “The African”  thrive and not simply survive.

This is because if there is one things Africans share in common is hope for the future.

So get started with a local opportunity and then watch how it may just affect the World.


Kenyan Mobile Developer James Mwai Wins 8.3 Million Shillings in Nokia Contest

Winner James Mwai. Picture by TechWeez

Kenyan developer James Mwai with his App AroundMe has won the In the Know category in the just concluded Create 4 Millions contest that was run by the Nokia Corporation.

AroundMe helps you figure out what services are around you.

AroundMe beat thousands of entries from around the world to emerge as the only contest winner in Africa making James join the ranks of John Waibochi C.E.O Virtual City who won the Nokia 1 Million Dollars challenge just 2 years ago [Read More].

James whom I have the pleasure of knowing {shameless plug ;)} has been developing AroundMe tirelessly for over 2 years. As such he is one of the top developers on the Nokia Symbian platform and his app AroundMe has also been developed for both QT and series 40 which are developer platforms that Nokia has been keen to promote recently.

AroundMe is known to have clocked over 250,000 downloads on the Nokia Store making it one of the most downloaded Kenyan applications.

This is a BIG win for James and for Kenya’s vision of becoming an ICT Hub particularly for Mobile Applications development by the year 2030. We should now expect more Kenyan developers to take more risk in developing applications as the industry begins to emerge as an employer for the Youth. Kudos to James for being such a great example.

You can reach Kenya’s latest Internet millionaire on Twitter @jmwai


Notes from Mobile Web East Africa 2012

Interactive MWEA2012 Session

Interactive MWEA2012 Session

The Mobile Web East Africa Conference 2012 was unlike any other I have been to. The conference managed to cover key aspects affecting the Mobile Web space  in East Africa.

It was interesting to get different perspectives from Government regarding Policy and Implementation as articulated by P.S. Bitange Ndemo and ICT Board C.E.O Paul Kukubo.

Investment and Business from Individuals such as Amy Klement, Chris Kirubi, Raj Gollamudi. Of note was the back and forth debate between Chris and Paul Kukubo from the ICT Board. Conclusion there needed to be more partnership between Government and Private Sector particularly in as far as facilitating the growth of Start-Ups is concerned.

Famous blogger Kachwanya also had a lengthy debate with Paul on the Chipuka Certification and the conclusion was that a certification process is important to give self taught developers some form of Professional Qualification which would act as a Industry standard or benchmark.

Another interesting event was the launch of both Sahizi.com and MimiBoard.com by Mobile Planet(of the Semeni Fame) and Umuntu Media. These organizations were ably represented by Karanja Macharia and Johan Nel. Both these platform aim to address the lack of African platforms that provide e-commerce and publishing solutions.

In conclusion this edition of Mobile Web East Africa was particularly informative and I am sure all the attendants did learn a lot from all the sessions. What follows are my opening remarks as Chairperson of the opening session.

Mr Paul Kukubo C.E.O of Kenya ICT Board, Chief Executive Officers present, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen welcome to the 2nd Edition of the Mobile Web East Africa Conference in Nairobi.

My name is John Karanja Founder and C.E.O of Whive.com and Co-Founder of Crowdpesa. Let me begin by giving a brief history of where we have come from since the last edition of this conference. I remember just 2 years ago the fiber-optic cable had just arrived on the shores of Mombasa, Kenya. This was thanks to the efforts of many of the people in attendance at this conference. I remember also at roughly the same time the iHub community had just been formed.

What followed shortly was the emergence of ideas, start-ups and businesses that began to take advantage of the increased access to Internet bandwidth and Opportunities and indeed we have seen many young people move onto the innovation space.

Ladies and Gentlemen another turning point in the evolution of the ecosystem was the launch of Open Data Kenya by His Excellency the President of Kenya Mwai Kibaki in July 2011. This allowed for the very first time access to public information and I think Kenya was the 2nd country in Africa to do so after Morocco. Since then we have seen a number of start-ups including Whive making use of this data.

Despite this tremendous growth if this space in Kenya we still face 3 key challenges as  I see them. Firstly the cost of Internet access is still high for the average Mwananchi. Lowering the cost of this bandwidth would significantly increase the size of the market and therefore facilitate the growth of business.

The second challenge is that of mentor-ship of the start-ups and businesses that are being formed in places like the iHub. This is of concern particularly because many of these entities are being formed by young people who by definition have little experience. More focus needs to shift to the mentor-ship of these individuals by more experienced people.

Lastly the distribution of products and services developed will remain a huge challenge that Small enterprises are ill equipped to manage.  This perhaps will be the role of larger platforms like Nokia Ovi Store/Safaricom store.

Let us examine 3 key enablers that will hopefully help resolve these challenges going forward. They are Social, Location and Mobile (SoLoMo) that is delivering solutions to the right people and the right place and at the right time.

With those few remarks it is with great pleasure I declare the conference officially open.

Other Event Resources are:




Throw your hands up in the air, the World’s first USSD App store Hewani.co.ke launches in Kenya

Hewani.co.ke Apps for the whole family

Back in May 2010 I wrote a blog post “Why Zain/Bharti should launch an App Store“. It was my belief that creating a mobile app economy in Kenya could catalyse the growth of software for export in East Africa especially for young mobile developer like myself. At that time many of us (developers) were pushing Safaricom to open up the MPesa API or create an app store where we could upload our mobile applications and presumably directly access their huge subscriber base.

The problem was, though developers such as James Mwai of AroundMe were getting thousands upon thousands of downloads on app stores such as the Nokia Ovi store it was quite a challenge to monetize the applications and therefore there was no incentive for developers to publish applications.

Well a lot has changed a year later developers now have various methods of monetizing applications through platforms such as InMobi and Google Admob which provide local facilities for integrating Ads as well as integration with offline mobile payment solutions like PesaPay(@CrowdPesa).

Things got much better when Virtual City Ltd winners of last year 1 million dollar Nokia Challenge launched among many other things their Hewani Life App store www.Hewani.co.ke. During their live launch event at the Fox Theatres in Sarit Center C.E.O John Waibochi unleashed  the platform with a suite of 400 applications that will change the way we live.

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This is a good move as its bound to localize this lucrative and untapped market and lower the barrier to entry for upcoming developers.

You can follow HewaniLife on @HewaniLife on Twitter.


Christian Kakoba says CrowdPesa helps you find those M-Pesa Agents and ATM’s

CrowdPesa: Mapping Mobile Money

Have you ever been somewhere stuck and frustrated because you had no money or perhaps you lost your wallet? I know I have…Well the 12th of December will be your lucky day as CrowdPesa currently on Beta will be launching it mobile service. According to this blog post on Mckinsey [ http://mckinseyonsociety.com/innovate-videos/crowdpesa-mapping-mobile-money/] Vote for Chris there by liking the post.

CrowdPesa is a mobile application that allows you to locate the nearest mobile money distribution point  be it Mpesa, ATMS or even Bank Branches. This is because the growth and use of mobile money solution has brought innovations and revolutionized the way people approach mobile money ecosystem, mobile banking but also m-commerce. Today the impact of mobile money solutions like M-Pesa in Kenya has given Africa a new and positive future. CrowdPesa is a Web and Mobile application with a mapping system that allows businesses to locate themselves in a map and facilitate users to find the location of the nearest financial service on their mobile phone. Our goal is to map financial services around the world to allow our users to do their transactions easily and to not only save time but also to rely on our service. We aim to propel our services to a global perspective through partnership with different network operators such as Safaricom in Kenya, Samsung, Western Union, Moneygram, as well as various banks, financial and research institutions. Let’€™s join our hands and spread mobile money around the World for a Connected Future. Welcome to CrowdPesa.com

In this video Christian Kakoba @kryskaka the Manager and Co-Founder of CrowdPesa explains how the service works and explains how it will help you in those sticky and broke situations.

Well over to you Chris….

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The Internet of things: Vision2030 according to Daniel Njuguna

Internet of Things

An interesting interview by Lolani Kalo of Nation Media Group unearthed innovator Daniel Njuguna from Kiambu county who has single-handedly managed to integrate his mobile phone  with home made appliances and gadgets that perform a number of domestic functions e.g. Security and even domestic chores like handling of clothes on the washing line (boy do i need this).

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This innovation is a precursor to what has been described as the internet of things where appliances and gadgets will soon be interconnected through the Internet. In countries like Kenya where mobile use is prevalent then we expect that solutions such as the one Daniel has created could be feasible and commercial.

Daniel should perhaps link up with the Innovation Society of Kenya whose chairman is Morris Mbesta of the car tracking device fame. Daniel and other innovators out there can contact @moufriq who is legal advisor at the same society.


Information is Power: The story of Zack Matere goes viral on youtube

Information is Power

Hey guys check out this story of Zack Matere a guy I met on Facebook who almost seems to have a new innovation up on his timeline whenever I look at it. Sooner rather than later this fella’s genius was bound to get noticed as this story has gone viral on youtube with almost a million views when I last checked. This goes to show that Kenyans continue to trail blaze with innovation and now according to his own words on skunkworks…

Hallo skunkers,

I have been invited to this event http://intersectionevent.com/ after a great response to the video i did with google.

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this is an event for innovators and among the speakers are Ed Catmull
Co-founder of pixar, Marissa Mayer google V.P  and Steve Case founder
of A.O.L.

Randy haykin the convener of the event is an angel investor with a portfolio of 200 Million Dollars guys this is big and i have the opportunity to pitch for my leo network of noticeboards idea.to do so effectively i need a team to coach me and an orgarnisation to partner with in creating a serious presentation in January .
The leo noticeboard idea is simple but powerful because it enables immediate access to digital content for rural villagers without much input in capital.

You can hit up Zack on Google Plus as that is his only publicly available profile.


Whive Connects Africa : Vision2030 ICT Awards

On Thursday 9th of June 2011 I gave a speech on our Whive.com platform on how we are contributing to the Vision2030 development plan for Kenya at the NaiLab Nairobi (@nailab).  Here is the written transcript on some of the remarks I made.

The Internet has made the World a global village, that is digitally connected where information flows from one corner of the globe to the other in real time. However, unfortunately for Africa it accounts for only one percent of the World’s Internet activity. The good news is that this is changing fast, with the tremendous efforts by African Governments such as Kenya’s Vision 2030 plan, which has already led to the arrival of fibre optic connectivity to our shores in June 2010.

This new connectivity to the global Internet networks has resulted in an unprecedented explosion in broadband availability and development of local applications to service the digital needs of Kenyans. Unknown to many Kenyans, the popular and ubiqitous service known as M-Pesa sits on a “cloud” service based in Europe and is now connected to Kenya using fibre optic broadband cable that lands off the shores of Mombasa. This has allowed for the rapid expansion in mobile money use and applications.

As such, Kenya being a leading mobile technology innovation hub is the perfect place for us to launch our Internet Service Whive.com which aims to connect Africans by proving localized and contextualized communication and information applications.

Indeed Whive.com is a social media platform that offers SMS, Facebook, Twitter and Mobile Applications that are built specifically for local use within the Kenyan and African context. This has mainly been achieved by the integration of local languages and use case during development of these applications. In particular, Whive offers a variety of important services namely:

Group and Bulk SMS services
This services allows organizations to send short messages to grouped contacts using a bulk messaging system. We already have 600+ organizations using this service.

Social Advertising
We also have SMS, Text and Banner based advertising products for our 12,000+ individual subscribers on our web, mobile and native applications. Here sponsors advertise their products on each SMS sent through our network and these users send this SMS for free.

Importantly, Whive differs from other platforms because we are localizing our mobile applications to meet the needs of the diverse Kenyan and African communities. We have done this by making the application available in local vernacular, which include Swahili, Sheng, French and English. We will be rolling out our SMS application in other colloquial languages.

Whive is seeking to help the Kenyan youth with our Classifieds application. This application currently offers jobs and other essential information to this cohort that has been largely ignored for a long time within society. Recently Whive won the Vision 2030 ICT Award for the youth, gender and vulnerable groups sector. This achievement has emboldened us to do even more and as a result we plan to expand this service by developing a fully fledged Swahili social networking application to expand this service across our borders to the East African Community.

This new application will also form a basis of lingual translation services of key Kenyan languages for up to 10,000 Words. This will ensure that we continue to preserve our rich cultural heritage presently as envisioned in the New Constitutional Dispensation.

At Whive.com we believe that if we succeed in digitally connecting the youth to the opportunities the Internet has to offer we will as a country continue to benefit from the explosion of ideas and the utilization of talent that is plentiful in our country. In addition we will be able to meet the goals set in the Vision 2030 plan that aims to reduce illiteracy, poverty and bring our people to a middle income status by the year 2030.

Additionally Kenya will be recognized as a leading technology hub not only in Africa, but also across the world earning ourselves a prestigious leadership position that is rightfully ours.

In conclusion I would like to invite you all to join www.Whive.com where we are Connecting Africa.

John Karanja is the Founder and C.E.O of Whive.com.

This article was first featured on Business Daily on 10/06/2011 as part of the Vision 2030 Supplement.


4 exciting events you should not miss.

Tech Community at iHub

Yes am back after six months hibernation from the wordy world of blogging and all things literal.

Nevertheless I will keep this post short and sweet :)

I will be speaking at 4 events in the month of June namely:

Vision 2030 Award Ceremony 9th June 2011

Whive was a recently a winner (Whive.com) of the Vision 2030  ICT Award for Youth, Gender and Vulnerable groups sector.  I will be making a presentation on our platform and how we are connecting the youth with more opportunities. [read more]

Pivot25 Mobile Innovation competition 14-15th June 2011

Whive.mobi is a finalist at this event with our mobile platform. Come and see how we are connecting Africa using this fast growing platform. [read more]

Afri Tech 2011 Nairobi 17 June 2011

At Afri Tech 2011, I will be conducting a seminar on the use of social media in Business using Whive.com as a case study. [read more]

Mobile Monday 20th June

Mobile Monday the premier event for all innovations mobile will have me as a guest speaker on how to monetize mobile applications.  Here I will focus on models that succesful applications have used to generate revenues  and how this is affecting our mobile development decisions at Whive. This event is sponsored by @NokiaEastAfrica [read more]

See you at these events and you can follow me at @KaranjaJohn and @Whive on Twitter.