Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Wind Beneath Africa's Wings

I aspire to become a modern communication technologies knowledge expert upon studying the relationship between culture, identity, expression and technology and how they impact on processes within the Networked Communications Environment-my United Nations Internet Governance Forum Panellist Bio attests therefore this post is important to me in several respects.

I happily invited Precious Blood School to participate at Workshop #417 - "Can Digital Citizenship Scale into the Emerging and Developing Countries effectively? Should It?" at the Sixth Annual Internet Governance Forum Meeting held in Nairobi, last September 2011 but they never came-so I was somewhat dissapointed.

But little did I know that among the reasons preventing their attendance was the fact that they were extremely busy in their IT laboratory re-inventing the future of social networking. Redefining its purpose and building a community around it.

The discovery hit me in the face yesterday afternoon at Precious Blood School, Riruta where was invited to witness the future unfolding, upon being urged “You cannot afford to miss it!”
Opening song “Wind Beneath My Wings” was melodiously performed by Angela Gachui and Ayub performed three African songs with his Nyatiti instrument at the colourful launch ceremony.

Ambitious and Zealous Movers of Africa, in short AZMA are an amazing group of young high school girls accomplishers [I hope Angela forgives me for contriving the title of her performance in describing my impression of founders passion as the wind beneath Africa's wings ] Their differentiating mission “It is not charity, but our duty to serve!” imprinted on their t-shirts as they declared their purpose as “to open the eyes and minds of the young people.”

Their activities are focused on three key objectives; a) Knowledge transfer, mentorship and value based leadership by helping students from weaker primary and secondary schools. Collecting (so far 2,000) books, covering them then donating to needy schools, b) Green Movement in honour of their icon, the late Prof. Wangari Maathai by planting millions of trees all over Kenya. The launch date, 25 November, was special to the founders considering that on 25 September, 2011 was the date their icon passed on. The network intends to mobilise the youth to clean streets, markets and slum areas for clean green environment and c) Outreach - which involves visiting homes, hospitals, slum areas and donating blood. Their idea is to infuse consciousness on others' needs by exposing themselves to society's challenges.

A powerful phrase, “we need to break our hearts to connect with the heartbroken” by one of the founders was quite humbling.

Under objective one - knowledge transfer was the day's highlight - the launch of a brand new youth Social Network Kenya's next big thing! Demonstrated was a powerful new use of Internet technology, by youth for the youth, with guidance from teachers and support from parents and well wishers. They invited students from other schools to join up.

Sorry chit-chat online fora, posh upmarket teens recreation centres competition has arrived. This group is resolute on making young people abandon cheap online fora “discussing breakfast” among other cheap talk instead moving the young to engage on intellectually stimulating online and other digital conversations. They promise to shift popular hangouts from lavish malls and drunken pubs misleading youth to children's homes thus making them responsible young adults.

“This social network is open to all high school students in Kenya who wish to participate in community service, mentorship and outreach efforts in various communities around the country.” states their portal. They have Activity, Forums, Groups, Members, Events, About, The Team, Blog, Contacts portal sections.

And true to their word, visitors to the website sample unfolding intelligent conversations.

From youth discussing how to avoid traumatizing monster tribalism that degenerated an otherwise peaceful country, Kenya, to thousands of deaths during 2007/08 post elections violence. Under 'Culture in Modern Society' forum are thought provoking questions; Does culture have a place today in modern society? Is going back to our roots progressive or retrogressive? Is there a difference between culture and tribalism? Attracting members' reactions, such as,

“Culture in our society is divisive! Going back to our roots is retrogressive!! The clashes in 2007 were a result of pple unable to accommodate other tribes and cultures.....” “There is a difference between culture and tribalism. If I am educated on how my clan carries out social ceremonies such as marriage and initiation, why should that hinder me from working well with someone else? If anything, I would want to learn from someone else’s culture. The clashes that took place in 2007 cannot be tied down to culture…” “Culture is a way of life. People come from different parts of the world with different ways of life. This is something that is respected. On the other hand, tribalism entails finding fault in another person’s culture. This is unhealthy. In the modern society, we cannot fully live according to our respective cultures to the letter.....”

Mrs. Were (Butere High School) with AZMA team planting a tree

“Today culture remains a story told through oral traditions or occasionally written. but really what really is culture? Well in our society it is difficult to draw a clear line between the tribe and the cultural.The older folks have taught that culture is your tribe’s way of life. If they hate another tribe you hate it. So when you tell me to go back to my roots am supposed to join the hatred? The line between culture and tribalism is yet to be demarcated as for now they are one and the same thing”

“I lyk what Ken has said. Lets pick out the wheat from the chaff. That way, we will have a whole society. It is impossible to completely abandon our culture because, uncultured, we cannot stand!” and “….look at the nations in the world that are succeeding, they all hold on to their culture up to today.”

Under objective two have set out to plant millions of trees in honour of their icon the late Prof. Wangari Maathai. Parents, Teachers and invited guests together with students planted several trees in the school compound. (Yours truly, assisted by AZMA members, planted one christened “tech tree” amidst cheers and ululations)

Students from a school in Ukambani and another from a less priveleged were given book donations under objective three-outreach. Founders outlined their plans to visit childrens institutions, such as, Jacaranda school caring for cerebral palsy children. Their plans to visit this institution was particularly touching considering that my first official function to preside over as newly elected Parents & Teachers Association (PTA) Chairman of a primary school in 2001 was an event hosted for the Cerebral Palsy Society of Kenya.

But why should be a re-invention of social networking and Kenya's next big innovation? It's simple, technology is all about the people and not the gizmos or software. The students identified the root cause of hopelessness among the youth and as peers decided to fix it using popular platform among as peers. Created a community motivated to do good, not by profits.

Below join up data from when started to when concluded writing this blog post already confirms my prediction that this local students social network's rising and unstoppable popularity qualifying their collective will as the wind beneath Africa's wings.

Start of writing Completed writing
92 members115 members
31 active members54 active members
186 updates 237 updates
4 groups6 groups
5 forums7 forums
3 topics5 topics
30 posts42 posts
4 blog post4 blog post
2 blog comments4 blog comments

I promised to support AZMA in their endeavour to make Kenya and the world a better place and call upon my friends to join me in supporting these young visionaries effecting change!

Photo credits:
United Nations Office at Nairobi by Alex Gakuru
Launch ceremony photographs courtesy of AZMA
Visit for more photos


Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Future is Open!

A five-year study released on April 16, 2008 indicated that Open Source software is raising havoc throughout the software market. It is the ultimate in disruptive technology, and while to it is only 6% of estimated trillion dollars IT budgeted annually, it saved consumers up to $60 billion in annual revenues, found The Standish Group.

Tux must be very excited! Good news to open source IT entrepreneurs local content development but bad news to locked code vendors, their agents and the proprietary business model in general.

Beginner's All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code (or “BASIC”) computer programming language promises to migrate software developers, en masse, to the Open Source Software environment.

Originating from Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, USA in 1964, the easy-to-use computer programming software was automagically embraced by computing industries. Because was freely released, software companies took it, modified some features then branded their release versions under different names making it today's top language in terms of number of programmers and software applications available.

Windows desktop application BASIC variants include Microsoft Visual Basic (VB) is, “a tool that allows programmers to create Windows applications in very little time. It is the most popular programming language in the world, and has more programmers and lines of code than any of its nearest competitors,” according to, Oracle's StarOffice Basic, TibboBasic, PowerBasic , among others

Mobile platform boasts of proprietary likes of NS Basic , Basic4android and GLBasic from interestingly also used for Windows, Linux and Mac OSX desktop applications development .

Open Source Software movement started in late 1970s and early 1980s - led by Richard Stallman and the Computer Science Research Group (CSRG) at University of California, Berkeley. Linux computer operating system assembled under the model of free and open source software development and distribution was first released October 5, 1991 by Linus Torvalds.

Various “flavours” of Linux were thereafter released to the public under GNU License by the Free Software Foundation- an organization that advocates the free software model, to understand which one should "think of free as in free speech, not as in free beer.”

On 20 October, 2004 Canonical Ltd released initial 'Warty Warthog' version of Ubuntu which went on to became the world's most popular Linux version. Awarded best Linux distribution at the 2005 LinuxWorld Conference and Expo in London. LinuxMint, based on Ubuntu, later occupied the No. slot at most popular flavour of Linux operating system software, ranking by

As of 20 November, 2011 top 10 distributions by page hit ranking for the last 12 months were:- (1) Mint, (2) Ubuntu, (3) Fedora, (4) Debian, (5) openSUSE, (6) Arch, (7) PCLinuxOS, (8) Puppy, (9) CentOS, and (10) Mandriva.

But Linux still missed something. Whereas every version is free, accompanied by free Office Productivity Suite – be it or and users choose whatever else extra wished to download, also for free. Despite the the hundreds of thousands of free ready applications available at Regardless of the obvious enterprise, organisational, government, SME an individual cost savings stared awaiting to be realised. Notwithstanding strong advocacy for Open Source Software, the adoption for the abundant sophisticated, free, applications development platforms, such as, QT by Nokia , Eclipse, MonoDevelop or NetBeans IDE, among many others, the Linux platform still lacked a familiar, simple, easy-to-use coding language that gently handholds BASIC programmers into the Linux environment.

Saving them from climbing steep learning curves associated with transitioning from one programming language to another while assuring those IT entrepreneurs their own coding business continuity as they venture to new Open Source Software horizons exploring its new “software services” away from “software products” business model.

Precisely the problem solved by Gambas - a free development environment based on a Basic interpreter with object extensions, a bit like Visual Basic™ (but it is NOT a clone !). Read the introduction for more information.

With Gambas, you can quickly design your program GUI with QT4 or GTK+, access MySQL, PostgreSQL, ODBC and SQLite databases, pilot applications with D-Bus, translate your program into any language, create network applications easily, make 3D OpenGL applications, make CGI web applications, and so on... [for more details]

Any high school leaver, college or university graduate whom has studied one type or other of BASIC “package” in town colleges is now free from proprietary software licenses fees, but only if they choose to.

If, indeed, the government wanted to fulfil its stated Universal Access to ICT commitments on the National ICT Policy, accelerate ICT knowledge transfer, revolutionise local IT applications development (officially “local content”) for worldwide export to generate foreign exchange, conserve its budgetary software license fees expenditure - for use on more pressing public needs, then there should have been a Free and Open Source Software national software strategy in place five years ago.


Thursday, November 17, 2011

Defying Programmed to Fail

I announced this blog on Saturday 29 October, 2011 and an interesting development immediately cropped on Monday 31 October, 2011. Never mind the details. Way back in 2007, I run another blog ICT Consumer Defender whose last post was, really, just a link to a news article published on Wednesday, August 8, 2007. Later ceased posting to the blog for reasons explained at the Second Internet Governance Forum at Rio,Brazil.

Before proceeding, it's fair to confess that when thought of the to title this post I googled the phrase “Programmed to Fail” which landed me on,“ explanation for teachers and parents of why it is that teaching children to learn from teachers simply makes them dependent on the ability of their teachers to communicate ideas. Whilst this is nearly always successful at first, as children grow older and the concepts they have to understand become more important, more and more children find that they are failing - and that they do not know why. This is when we tend to explain that they 'lack aptitude'. This attitude is particularly ruinous in maths and other sciences. The truth is that letting them become dependent on their teachers' abilities rather than improving their own means that they are literally programmed to fail," by The Institute of Democracy from Mathematics.

Colin Hannaford - the author, starts by describing himself, “It is quite possible that you may also want to know a little about me and about my life, although in truth I have always been quite unimportant. As may be obvious by now, I was born quite a few years ago, in Plymouth, England, around the time when the German Luftwaffe was trying almost daily to bomb it, or burn it, to the ground.”

But while we distinguish between parenting that enables a child to be their best and subsequent support to enable them achieve own aspirations, The paragraph speaks to adults' failure to teach children to think for themselves and instead turning them into eternal dependants of their teachers old school thinking, even after the world changed and all things are different. Resulting in kids forced to dress in artificial “success” often uncomfortable where they lack requisite knowledge and life skills to perform hosts of their designated tasks.

The daddy's and mummy's boy or girl cannot do anything on their own but instead ever rush to their (god) father or mother to fix *everything* broken or not going as expected. And when favourite kids are threatened with irrelevancy, special custom-made jobs are carved out perfectly fitting their description and which no-one, absolutely no one else, can take.

The resultant scenario forms a societal legacy of inheritance for power, money and control manifested in entwined politics, business and fuelled by instruments of mass communications. Emerge “approved” and “appointed ones” from family X or Y operating outfit Z etc things are kept under wraps for empire legacy safety and control reinforced. Social injustice perpetuated and the subjects are forced or made to believe that there is nothing they can do to change their predicament and reclaim their future.

In the Empire's golden days the Choir Master always chose which tune should be played, when it was convenient and for how long it should be played. The master program was designed to easily eliminate them but for some reason, apparently why is it not working?

This bug on was discovered by a group of programmers calling themselves “civil society.” They set out to debunk autocratic societal inheritances by never ceasing to scream at the slightest sight of any injustice. They are a detested lot by the corporation and establishment interests. They are fearless and speak out clear pointing out that they are not dependants of the spoilt gains. Their success is in spite of, not due to, the system.

All it takes for evil to triumph is for the good people to do nothing.

A long time ago leaned ”First they came for the communists, and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a communist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Jew. Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me, " from Pastor Martin Niemöller

But now that things are different “Plan B” - Everything must be done to vanquish their petulant disturbances to the vast empire built over many years by current powers holders' forefathers must be invoked. Everything possible must be done to protect the grand money power and control legacy.

Aware that its always easier for a parent to pass their own inadequacies to their siblings, for example, if went to school on bare feet the parents buys endless pairs of shoes for the child and a chauffeur is designated to take young Prince (or Princess) everywhere they please? Because the parent was ever broke at school then their children are loaded with untold sums of cash on their way to school?

Conclude by begging answers to the question, should a parent raise their child educating them on the reality of prevailing evil in society and teach them to avoid its perpetrators or should the parent paint a hunky-dory – smell no evil, see no evil, hear no evil "life's good" attitude or should they start very early explaining the truth to prepare the child to confront when they grow up?

The most humorous part is played by such an individual when purporting to be the “role model” preaching values and morals claiming to be inspiring hopeless peoples. It is in deed laughable.

When as a child raised in my rural village there were two prominent persons the community automatically called upon to preside one over weddings while the other on funerals. If the weddings man was not appointed as the Master of Ceremony at a given wedding, the invited guest asked why the experienced “MC” was not the one presiding over the function? Such weddings wee not considered “complete” due to the absence of the renowned personality cracking jokes while dispensing his ritual marital advisories in experienced doses.

Mourners at funerals where protagonist “most mournful” Master of Ceremony was absent felt like they did not “properly escort” the departed to fully rest in eternal peace. When this person attended a wedding, he was somewhat received with “you remind us of sorrow” unspoken kind of looks while “the weddings man” played minimal roles at those funeral he could not avoid.

My fellow villagers had been programmed to think “joyful moments” as equivalent to one individual and “soothing condoling” in terms of another different person.

This society programming involves projecting the convenient powers-that-be imagery of one person then reinforcing it with overt and covert innuendos, insinuations. Later on prominent sympathies are delivered by the very architects of the victims calamities whom had schemed Legacy Empires systems protectioninst strategies in dark corners on in hashed tones.

Nothing frightens these people than the Internet for its ability to make an individual express their opinion and views to the whole world. Which reveal little secrets thought well secure. Free of top down controlled Legacy Media, not influenced by commerical advertisment revenues, independent of compromised intermediaries.

Then tables turn around, conniving plots botched, schemes falls apart and the hunters becomes the hunted. Following their failed plots, now haunted individuals become extremely dangerous- best avoided since their subsequent reactions are unpredictable. Where impossible to completely avoid them, please, give them soft landing grounds.

But programming and debugging continue since is a lifelong undertaking.