Archive for June, 2008|Monthly archive page

Review of Fibre Optic Cable in East Africa – Part 2

Fast forward to Q2 of 2009, and Kenya has finally joined the ranks of the information superhighway, thanks to two submarine fibre optic cables, dubbed TEAMS an EASSY safely in Mombasa.

Post Update!

Thanks to Seth’s comment in Part 1, SEACOM (a Mauritius based company, that provides high capacity bandwidth linking business and communities) is laying a cable that will link the East Coast of Africa linking Southern and East Africa, Europe and South Asia. There is a landing at Mombasa for the 1.2TB/s capacity cable, to enable high definition TV, peer to peer networks, IPTV, and surging Internet demand. Pricing will be significantly lower than current satellite or fibre pricing cable. Bring it on SEACOM!

Read part 1 here for details and comment. What does it mean for internetpreneurs like me who want to hog broadband bandwidth from the balcony? What does it mean for technology companies in Kenya? What about education institutions? Once the mystical fibre optic cable lands in Mombasa, Kenya will never be the same again. At least that is what pundits tell us. We are assured of bottom rock priced high-speed Internet, access to the vaults that hold all the information we could ever need. But is price the issue?

What Kenya needs badly is last mile infrastructure, the home stretch. We have invested heavily in backbone transmission capacity from Mombasa where the cable is landing to the rest of the country. Telkom Kenya, KDN, Jamii Telkom and the Govt of Kenya through FONN is ensuring every village will have lit fibre a stone throw away. Many large institutions (hospitals, research institutes, education institutes etc have their own campus fibre ring).

Last mile ….. The question is how then do we interconnect my village ePasha center to the world? The options are limitless, with wireless providing some of the best options. Am seeing some home grown companies offering my village connectivity to the backbone cable. We could use wireless e.g WiMAX to deliver the information to my coffee farm. The options are many, and we shall not be re-inventing the wheel. In another part of this series we shall look at what the ISPs and PDNOs are offering.

The biggest boom is however expected in the BPO sector. Already the operators in this sub-sector have formed an association to better front their cause and case. It is expected that with a large pool of young, educated Kenyans with impeccable English (unlike mine), this area will take off. But we need to remember that this industry is very competitive and we shall be late entrants. I still think that we can do alot of call centres (alot of experience is being developed especially by the GSM operators), back office operations, software technology parks, and other outsourcing jobs that can keep our people happy and gainfully employed. We can now comfortably have hosting companies and managed server farms, offering crucial redundancy and disaster recovery for others in the rest of the world. Ah! it shall truly be exciting times in Kenya.

While we celebrate the landing of the cable (I cannot wait for that day), we need to think ahead and create opportunities for our economy, so the landing of the cables at Mombasa is not the end of the story.

TEAMS and EASSY, we await. In part 3 we shall look indepth at BPO, calls centres, software technology parks, cyber villages (and cafes), KeKoBi, and the Kenya ICT Boards role.

Review of Fibre Optic Cable in East Africa — Part 1

The much-talked about digital divide has left a yawning gap between the Eastern African countries and the rest of the world. A lot has been done by national telecoms companies, mostly former lethargic government-owned entities. They have kept us connected to the world using satellite links. Though stable, we have to contend with high costs. Higher bandwidths usually means more money shelled out. The cost of satellite links is high, and their reliability and bandwidth not the best. We shall retain the links as back up, since even under sea cables get broken or cut by deep sea trawlers, if not under sea quakes. Time has now come for us to cross the chasm and leap into the information superhighway. Hello world!

Not to be left behind, the Kenyan government, inspired by a growing economy hungry for information has spurred growth in the telecoms sector like never before. For once we have an enabling and responsive political climate. This has meant the government can now attract top-notch professionals to steer the ship across the digital divide. The Ministry of Information and Communications is now very visible and its PS is very vocal and energetic on matters fibre optic cable connection to Mombasa. The Kenya ICT Board on its part is the vehicle driving the ICT dream all the way to my village. I hope my people shall appreciate all these efforts.

We have many home grown companies that are complementing Telkom Kenya’s efforts to connect us. Telkom on their part are now a leaner and more efficient outfit, thanks to a restructuring and eventual sale to France Telecom. Their service provision has gone a notch higher, inspired no less by emerging start ups hungry for their business. Invariably, the battle for the fibre cable connection has gone a notch higher thanks to the new entrants.

First off the block was Telkom who laid a fibre between Mombasa City and Nairobi City. This was unprecedented, and Kenya Data Networks (KDN)matched them, with a similar link. The two went on to expand the fibre mesh within the cities and now it is common to have lit fibre in your door step. Not to be left behind, Jamii Telecom took the battle to the streets of Nairobi with their KES. 300 million Nairobi Metro Fibre. This mesh aims to bring fibre-to-the-home (FTTH). Lastly the Kenyan government through its Fibre Optic National Network (FONN) is laying fibre to the entire country, connecting villages and erstwhile remote places to the hubs in Nairobi and the landing spot in Mombasa. The Kenyan map has never looked better.

The missing link is Mombasa to the world …. but not to worry. We have two competing cable teams, TEAMS (The East African Marine System) and EASSY (East African Submarine Systems). The first, TEAMS, is a joint venture between the Govt of Kenya and Etisalat, the UAE national telecom operator. We should be hooked via Fujairah, UAE by Q1 of 2009. The Alcatel-Lucent cable laying ship is working round the clock to ensure this dream is realized. The other, Eassy, is an effort by the telecoms companies to get a share of the pie by laying a submarine cable all the way to Durban, South Africa. The more the merrier!

In part 2 we shall look at what all this cable being laid means for the Kenyan people and economy.

Of Monetizing Blogs, Text Links Ads, Peel-Away Ads and Hover Ads – Part 1

This is a multi part series to create awareness and educate the people on how blogging can be a fulfilling and profitable enterprise. Blogging can be an engaging and liberating way of engaging oneself. I shall cover the basics on how one can start, content creation and optimization, and finally see how monetization works on the Net. In between we shall cover Blogging Technologies for Dummies and sort out the techie stuff, especially for dummies 😉

The Internet is awash wish the so-called web 2.0 tools that should take you to a palm tree shade in Maldives for a year, as your account fattens in autopilot. This is when you fully monetize your blog. In a blog all the owner does is register a domain name, get a web hosting solution, create content, do some SEO (as in search engine optimization), slap the relevant ads, and hey presto …. off to Maldives, no packing required. If it is that easy, why are we not all in Maldives? For one the hotels there would not be enough to accommodate us all ….. Seriously though, the thing is that it’s not that simple … Read on….

Preliminaries —- buy a domain name that is catchy yet descriptive. Also aim to brand yourself with the domain name. Choose a hosting plan that puts you in control, and has all the relevant tools to make customization of your blogs easy. Ensure that you can easily put plug ins and other whizzy stuff to make your blog snazzy, but not too busy as to loose your readers attention. It is also important that you OWN your domain name, (be careful when registering, else one year down the line, the domain name owner will sell the domain, and you are left wondering what hit you). It happens. Details shall come in part 2.

Then second step is one needs to create niche content. Create content that you are passionate about, what is called USP – unique selling point. This is really the easiest way, since you are an expert on what you passionate about. What will make your blog stand out from the millions on the same subject that exist out there? And more importantly, what will make the people flock to your blog, read the content, comment, sign up for your newsletter, sign up for your RSS feed etc. The answer is content. Which really means that we should all be blogging about something, since content is inexhaustible, right? True, scratch and you shall find content to blog about under the surface.

It is important to ensure that your blog has fresh content. Repeat, fresh content, as in keep it updated. This keeps everyone happy … you the blogger shall be excited since you are writing daily about a passionate subject (content), your visitors / readers shall be happy since you are providing them with the content they crave, Mr. Google (that king of search and indexing) shall be very happy as he sends his spiders to crawl your site and report back to the index, your advertisers shall be hearing the cash clicking in the bank as the customers click through their adverts, the hosting company shall be happy to keep the servers cool, secure and running, the web master shall be happy to keep the site in shape …………. the whole world will be happy. In fact we have just discovered the solution to world peace. Happy blogging!

Comments on blogging and monetizing blogs are welcome.

Of a 24-hr Nairobi, Wi-fi and Writing

It’s been a long weekend here in Kenya, thanks to our peculiar way of celebrating national holidays. If it falls on a Sunday, the following day is a public holiday, to reward us for the serious celebrations and otherwise that we engage in. So its been a whole 3 days, alot of time to sample what our lovely city Nairobi has to offer, albeit in daylight.

So inspired by some research I need to do for my book (see my other blog), I go down Ngong Road to Prestige Plaza, that icon of 24-hr shopping mall phenomenon. Many people wonder what Nairobians do up all night, but you just need to go to Prestige and the adjacent businesses and see. My visit was during the day, and I was there to hunt down a real wi-fi hot spot. Those innovative guys at MoMovies have again led the pack. They ae piloting a 24-hr wi-fi hot spot as a new channel of business, besides their 24-hr video library in the same mall. They hold the largest collection of original DVDs, complete with home delivery and online ordering, so go over and sign up.

After a little hunting for a power socket, I fire up my laptop, launch Ubuntu and am online in minutes. It really flies, by Kenyan standards. We have alot of broadband this and broadband that here, the word is grossly misused. The service is great, and I will be going down to pay for the same service when its launched commercially. I will even follow them to the other malls where they are planning to launch the service. Kenyan coffee and wi-fi, great combination.

So with blistering speed wi-fi, I did alot of research and filled tonnes of pages with material. Being a typical Nairobi end-of-month evening, I snapped my laptop shut and was home by 8pm.

We need that kind of service here in Nairobi. The person who extends the hot spot to cover my balcony has an instant customer. I wonder if the people who do business development, or whatever they call it, for ISPs read such pieces. I think they don’t.