Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Technology robbing poor pupils and parents millions of cash

Update 1: Now approaching 24 hours since sent that SMS yet not results received! And still waiting...... Update 2: Its 4 days later and no reply. Written it off 2010 losses expecting a repeat on KCSE results... __________________________________________________________________________________

Photo/Business Daily
Tens of millions of shillings are being made today from poor pupils, their parents and relatives all anxious for now released KCPE results. As expected, as always the case now for the seventh consecutive year, the free online results query services announced by the Ministry of Education and Kenya National Examinations Council are not working on the results days.

Visitors are “encouraged” to use costly Premium Rate Service advertised which continues delaying results thus forcing pupils and their families to send repeated messages, each costing then twenty shillings. But is this a case of technology failure or latest illustration of governance translucency?

Today's media reports it is anxious time for KCPE candidates over exam results. Everyone whom has sat for an examination knows too well the anxiousness that gripped them on learning that the results were out, be they primary, secondary school, high school, university or professional examinations. An unsettled state of emotions that makes food lack taste or an unquenchable thirst for results information no drinks can satisfy.

The emotional turmoil being experienced by parents and 775,000 pupils whom sat for this year's Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (or KCPE) examinations results released a short while ago by Ministry of Education (MoE). Parents eager to find out whether their child passed the exams, possible Form 1 admission school next month for better school fees and related expenditure budgeting. The impatient young can do anything to know the outcome of their 8-year long primary school life.

Under these circumstances, all welcome announced technologies to enable their instant access to the results. The minister's announcement of availability the results at the ministry's website, Kenya National Examinations Council (KNEC) website and option three – on mobile phone send index number to short 5052 (reported as 55052 by media) but do they work and at what cost?

The ministry's requests website visitors to “Click on the object Link below to start Searching for your results..” when no such link(s) for searching results actually exists!
Kenya Ministry of Education website
No links to search results (viewed on 28 December,2011)

KNEC provides two options in the order: 1. “SMS Index Number to 5052 to get 2011 KCPE Results on SMS” and 2. “Click here to check for 2011 KCPE Results Online.”

"SMS Index Number to 5052 to get 2011 KCPE Results on SMS"
Kenya National Examination Council website (viewed 28 Dec.,2011)

Choosing option 2 takes website visitor to a screen where can to type the index number but after pressing “SUBMIT” button gets “ERROR: Gateway Timeout: While trying to retrieve the URL timed out” message.

Essentially therefore leaving option 1 available to each of the the 775,000 pupils and (perhaps both) parents - sending index numbers to 5052 SMS service. Never mind that neither the ministry nor KNEC anywhere bother to inform mobile phone users that that messages sent to 5052 are charged at Kshs 20 per message or how long after they should expect the reply message.

The proof of the pudding is in the eating, therefore at 1:54 pm today I checked my mobile phone balance, chose a carefully selected index number, wrote and SMS to 5052 then pressed “send” button on the phone. There are several consumer protection issues this incident brings to the fore.

Two years ago, I know of a parent who sent a message to the service but after not getting any replies, sent several others afterwards. They then used different phones, then phones on different networks afraid that perhaps their phone or network were to blame. Never knew that each message cost them a whooping 20 Shs thus their total bill was enormous. They finally received irritating several SMS replies, but several days later, after they had anyway given up on the 'wonderful' technologies went and got to the results from the school.

It is now approaching 5:30 pm and yet to receive the reply SMS message and I can only imagine the many among the hundreds of thousands pupils and their parents have sent several messages are languishing in continued anxiety.

Bearing in mind potentailly shillings 15 million and five hundred thousand is derived if every pupil sends just one SMS add the extra messages sent by either or both their parents or relatives, repeatedly, potentially amounting many more tens of millions shillings from poor results anxious pupils and parents.

But expect the usual blame game and pointing of fingers. The ministry, KNEC and their Premium Rate Service Provider (short code 5052) jointly accusing technology “overwhelmed” demand for service outages or delays.

But is it really a technology failure or a transparency/translucency issue? The officials indirectly advertising for a commercial service, deliberately or by omission failing the free online services to drive pupils to the commercial venture? Who owns the services and how many millions of shillings has the firm derived each year? Why aren't there several PRSP short codes not published, if the one cannot cope with demand – if to ensure that the pupils expectations of technology are not quashed when so young. Was the service procured in line with the Public Procurement and Disposal Act, 2005? And why, after 7 years repeated experience on both KCPE and KCSE results has the ministry and KNEC failed to upgrade their system and bandwidth, at least before announcing to the public?

Could the officials publish the millions of shillings cumulatively generated from the premium rate SMS service over the last seven year, if it does not constitute business confidentiality or infringe on the business owners income privacy?

It is inexcusable that for the seventh consecutive year, neither the ministry's nor KNEC's websites are providing the announced promised results and I still have not received test results after sending one costly 20 shillings trial message to 5052 at 1:54 pm. I shall update this post with the date and time when, or if, I ever get the SMS query reply message. (Of course, careful not to reveal the mobile number(s) I used to avoid their prioritisation of my message above all others' messages.)

Conclude by stating that the Ministry of Education, Kenya National Examinations Council and their SMS Premium Rate Service Provider jointly have a public ICT consumer protection case to answer.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Staring "White and Green" Christmas Reality

Wrote this on a calm Boxing Day morning listening to happy birds chirp outside my window. Their energies and persistence speaks loud of awoken early to feast on the fattest worms to their daily fill perhaps thereafter washed it down with fresh sweet nectar from flowers with driblets of morning dew.

The world has enough for everything that lives on it but not enough for one greedy person.

Ugali na sukuma wiki/WIKIPEDIA

Dedicate this those without a box to open, no gift received - not even cheap Christmas card. Much appreciate of the numerous Seasons' Best Wishes text and email messages facilitated by more affordable and convenient modern communications technologies. I received one such 'cost avoidance advisory' best wishes SMS that read:-

Eeeee, naona hapo bado unafikiria Krisimasi.. Ushaifanya hesabu ya hiyo siku? Hebu fikiria ::: Ku-travel hapa na pale 4,000/= kubuy vyakula vingi na kushiba exes 7,000/= kubuy nguo 10,000/= kukesha out 20,000/= kualika mafriends 30,000/= Je! na mpango wa kando 35,000/= na bado uko na shida ya pesa??? FIKIRIA.... Achana na mpango wa krisimasi!!! PIKA SUKUMA EPUKA HASARA...

[Translated: “eeh, I see you are still thinking Christmas. Have you budgeted for that day? Unplanned visits shs 4,000, buying much food 7,000 buying clothes 10,000 going out 20,000, costs of inviting friends over 30,000. Extra marital affair expenditure 35,000 and as it is you're pecuniary embarrassed? Think about it, forget plans for Christmas! Cook kale and ugali to avoid further indebtedness.”]

But wait a minute.... none of the above should be happening in Kenya because “An increase of ten percentage points in mobile-phone adoption in a developing country increased growth in GDP per person by 0.8 percentage points,” according to the World Bank, “mobile phones have made a bigger difference to the lives of more people, more quickly, than any previous technology. They have spread the fastest and have become the single most transformative tool for development,” according to Christine Zhen-Wei Qiang, Lead Economist at the World Bank

Forget the World Bank report:

Unless, according to their report, your families feasted on oven perfectly roasted Christmas turkey receipe.
Oven roasted brine soaked turkey /WIKIPEDIA

World Bank were wrong, judging from the sukuma wiki and ugali Christmas reality Kenyans face that is farthest from their theoretical findings. From deep down in the African trenches, the original Christmas spirit was killed a long time ago instead morphed into a mobile networks operators' harvest season. In a marketeers with advertisers galore wherein reinforces the Bank's historical privatisation preference and continual 'private sector' support less caring about consumer protection.

And neither have we forgotten nor fully recovered from the effects from your Structural Adjustment Programs of the late 80s and early 90s. While at it, how come you failed to predict the so-called “Global Economic Crisis” and advice rich economies controllers on how to avoid it?

Mobicos wrecking poverty havoc in Africa.

While mobile subscribers text one another blaming themselves and offering advise against reckless spending over Christmas, they certainly make mobicos smile all the way to their banks. They fail to see the real villains behind their poverty and ugali miserable holidays. Their chain SMS forwards further boost mobicos profits, recalling this year's financial performance, “12.9% growth in Turnover to KSh. 94.83 Billion,” Safaricom reported.

In December last year six hundred and sixty five million SMS messages were sent in Kenya in equivalent to shillings 665 million at one shilling per message. Between October and December 7.4 billion minutes of calls were made over mobile networks of which 6.4 were “on-net” (or calls made within the same network not to subscribes on other networks). Calculate using cheapest operator's tariff of 3 shillings per minute would means a whooping KS 22.2 billion mopped from subscribers pockets, according to regulator report.

By the way, it amazes to find telecommunications reports written especially crafted for technology experts? You know, the folks that “speak in tongues” to us at conferences? Ever using incomprehensible acronyms and whom appear relieved to conclude their presentations with “positive indicators of success and future industry prospects” - citing increased; penetration, minutes of use, affordability, growth in data services, national GDP (using above referenced Word Bank report). While we, the lay audience, nod our heads in agreement – if to be seen as “in the know” but in truth more often than not we have no idea what they are talking about? Many afraid to publicly demonstrate their stupidity by asking “technical questions” thereafter?

A good question one may ask would be, “For all the wonderful technologies you have spoken about, how much does it cost me and what benefits and savings do I stand to gain by adopting it? What known and potential harms does the consumer risk and what precautions should be taken?” The harms could range from financial, physical, biological, social or emotional trauma upon discovery of eroded privacy, among others.


Effective regulation resulted in costs of telecommunications coming down, but up to last year. This year has seen weakened telecommunications regulation resulting in consumer prices rising. Mobile calling tariffs and Value Added Services have risen. Apparently taking a cue from petroleum dealers, sugar factories, food industries and electricity company, mobile phone services providers have embarked on rationing what hitherto were “unlimited services” they now sell those services in very limited doses - as if communications are dangerous medicines to be dispensed in small doses.

Blame threatened insatiable telecoms corporate greed for draining out billions out of all our pockets leaving us with no turkey or chicken but the ugali you were forced to eat this Christmas. Blame the regulator for allowing prices to go up north.


Government policy is ultimately responsible for what is affecting your pocket- whether in taxation, bandwidth or calling tariffs and consumer protection. Government fails when it looks the other way while consumers suffer. Fails more miserably when it goes ahead to support price increments and even worse should it interfere with independent regulation to favour any of the handful of operators at the expense and alter of public interest. And pathetic when genuine, assertive and independent consumer protection is scuttled and deliberately frustrated by invisible hands through deliberate but clandestine individuals officials acts.

To mess any economy, stuff its telecommunications regime. Communication is the nervous system of the (publics) economy [different from (corporates) economy] which when obstructed triggers widespread irreparable harm to the (national/government) economy. Now with bank lending rates shoot to highest levels in eight years, disastrous inflation awaits in 2012.

The government is challenged to demonstrate implementation of consumer protection policy as required by the Constitution of Kenya promulgated last year to arrest now rising prices and ensure competition benefits are passed on to consumers.

Role of advertising and/in media:

Laugh your head off at The Ex Journalist’s Guide to Saving the World, Soulful PR and Selling Kitty Litter but think about it, journalism no longer serves the public interest they way it used to. Nowadays media enterprise interests dominate editorial “policy” way above journalistic values.

Own research has established that the first six-month of 2011 (January to June) Kenya's total advertising revenues on broadcast (radio and television), six major print newspapers, magazines and periodicals on local media was approximately shillings 19.1 billion - with telecommunications industry accounting for Shs 4 billion (or 23.2 per cent of advertisements revenue.) Below table lists expenditures above 1 billion shillings
Industry/Sector Advertisements Revenue (KShs)
Communication 4,088,978,680
Corporate 2,410,821,743
Finance 2,202,185,650
Household 1,894,897,744
Pharmaceuticals 2,516,553,206
Beverages 1,905,573,580
Foods 1,210,821,702
Personal Care 1,341,857,898

a) How does abundant advertisement cash affect the media editorial content?
b) Do the ads-enriched media houses deliberately present slanted reporting to protect and advance commercial interests for their big advertisement spenders?
c) Can free, media coverage airtime ('space wasting') consumer protection agenda withstand the onslaught from high media revenues sources agenda?
d) How do commercial firm's business proposals to media houses offering high revenue-share model control what all people think about (even if may not control what they think)?
e) How can we be certain that, overall, the media fairly weighs on consumer protection against advertised goods, products and services?

While at it, the media could have lesser "Celebrity Journalism" and increase on their "Life Skills" improving content.

Wouldn’t you think that most consumers of media would want the information they accept to be true, useful, informative, dignified, and objective? Well, is it? ...crucial for all people to know how our media-driven society has shaped and mis-shaped our values, causing considerable harm at the same time. Consistently, the media pokes, prods, drives, pushes, and coerces consumers with FEAR. How many of these fears are ever realized? How much of what we see in the media (and especially the news) is in our realm of normal?.

Prior to modern times, the potential for using electricity existed, but went untapped. In the past 50 years, fear mongers have accelerated the ways to deliver pain to audiences and make them jump. They learned how to parlay the manipulation of that emotion into the largest cash cow to date.

Modern humans have been taught, even conditioned, to fear many things.The list of fears grows exponentially as each individual articulates the things s/he dreads. A short list of popular fears includes change, financial insecurity, other people, big businesses, wasting time, uncertainty (the unknown), and more. But these fears are a learned behavior. People aren't born with an instinctive fear of any of these. From where did they come?" poses

The Future not so bright either:

I would be lying to say that it looks brighter when data and progress curve point contrary. The number of civil society interventionists – alleviating societal suffering due to government/governance failures serves as a good yardstick. In progressive societies such interventionists work towards making themselves irrelevant, in any case they would not receive donor funding if they did not have well grounded legitimate funding proposals.

In December 2004, Kenya had at most 5,000 registered NGOs/CBOs/CS organisations registered in a then population of 33 million people. India had about 11,000 such organisations while their population was about 1 billion. Today, there are over 8,500 such registered organisation in a population of 40 million people.

Hopefully this clarifies why a sizeable number were forced to eat ugali yesterday to avoid further indebtedness. Best be advised to tighten your belts or learn how to take sukuma wiki with pepper (with a glass of water at hand)

The world may have enough to feed everything on it but clearly excessive greed has overcome our planet. Tensions from competition for dominance and control of resources can only multiply.

Fasten your seat belts!


Thursday, December 15, 2011

Internet Death Feared Tomorrow

New Music: Saving Internet Freedom of Speech.
1. "Firewall" (Don't Let Our Government Ruin The Internets) by Leah Kauffman
2. "SOPA Cabana" by Dan Bull
Thanks to New 'Firewall' song protests SOPA copyright bill (Q&A) Declan McCullagh CNET News

Enjoy your last Internet freedom today because after tomorrow it will be gloom and doom online. The Internet you freely enjoyed will henceforth be grated only unto those whom watch Hollywood movies and dance to big label music hits released in America. The day in history when the world will wake up to the darkest day online.
“On Thursday, December 15 at 10:00 a.m. (EST) the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary will meet to markup and potentially vote in committee on H.R. 3261, the “Stop Online Piracy Act” or SOPA. This egregious bill, introduced in October by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), not only threatens the future of the Internet as we know it, it jeopardizes protections currently enjoyed by individual citizens, as well as libraries. The bill has the potential to do significant damage in a number of ways – including the possibility of criminal prosecution of a library for streaming, censorship of internet activity, invasion of privacy rights, and even threatens national cyber security, among others.” publishes

An excessive application of traditional copyright law(written for the analogue era) on internet digital media content has become the new tool to criminalise use of the Internet. Beware the internet, by its architectural design, makes a local (cached) copy of the viewed online content on the user's computer - a reason sufficient enough to get all its users jailed for 'copyright infringement' under analogue copyright regimes. You need not even be online content sharing student to risk infringement extradition.

Bid goodbye to a hitherto generative internet and prepare for much worse that await.
Websites slowly start fading and falling off the web, slowed internet-enabled innovation, blogs shut down, sacrificing your free expression online, dwindled access to information, diminishing consumer choice in a gradual return to dark days of tightened society control rewarding oppressive regimes with a new lease of life.

And its only a matter of time before google is unable to return complete list of all online search results “Revised 'Net censorship bill requires search engines to block sites, too” arstechnica earlier reported.

Tomorrow could mark the day the whole world was terrified on realisation of the death of the Internet. Killed by a handful of rich legacy content producers unimaginative for new business models with their globally established traditional news and information distribution networks. Rendering them irrelevant towards extinction after internet-enabled innovation unleashed new content, producers and online distribution networks that robbed them their earlier global monopoly on entertainment, news and information distribution to promote the same.

United in shooting democracy in the foot are US lawmakers pressed to restore Hollywood's past blockbusters glory, music record label companies used to hot releases distributed via old established networks promoted songs through old media information dissemination networks. Industries intent on regaining old relevance by cutting off global public access to new online content, news and information by confining audiences to their chosen tracks and movies – they way things used to be before 'spoiler Internet' came around.

On a video at the 2009 IGF in Egypt, moderator Ian Peter closed the session by saying, "the Internet is under threat, especially from old, dying empires," citing Rupert Murdoch's publishing businesses as one example, "that are putting up their last struggle to change things back to the way back to the it used to be."

These rich old content business model business lobbyists engaged innovation corruption tactics (or 'institutional corruption , remixed') to have the US lawmakers to enforce laws reclaiming their old gone empires two new legislations with global jurisdiction - Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect-IP Act (PIPA) in the House and Senate, respectively all the world nation states shall be forced to abide to else their online presence will be switched off-due process not needed!

ICANN Civil Society Letter to Washington D.C.

Today, 14 December, 2011 the Non-Commercial Users Constituency (NCUC), which is part of the multistakeholder model of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) and represents more than 250 individuals, users, non-commercial and non-profit organizations from around the world has written a letter to House Committee expressing profound concern with the proposed PROTECT IP Act (PIPA) and Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), which would mandate the blocking and filtering of the Domain Name System (DNS) to protect the interests of the US copyright industry.

In particular, NCUC is very concerned with the provisions in both Bills relating to Domain Name System (DNS) filtering. As identified by numerous technical, legal and policy experts:

  • DNS filtering is often proposed as a way to block illegal content consumption by end users. Yet policies to mandate DNS filtering will be ineffective for that purpose and will interfere with cross-border data flows and services undermining innovation and social development across the globe.

  • Filtering DNS or blocking domain names does not remove the illegal content – it simply makes the content harder to find. Those who are determined to download filtered content can easily use a number of widely available, legitimately-proposed tools to circumvent DNS filtering regimes. As a result, DNS filtering encourages the creation of alternative, non-standard DNS systems.

  • DNS filtering a blocking raises human right and freedom of expression concerns, and often curtails international principles regarding the rule of law, due process and justice. Some countries have employed DNS filtering and blocking as a way to restrict access to the global Internet and to curb free speech.

  • The United States has historically advocated for freedom of expression and has been a strong proponent of online Internet freedoms. The United States Government has a significant responsibility to balance its domestic obligations and their potential global impact, especially with respect to Internet policy. Given its commitment to global Internet freedom, it would be detrimental to the global Internet if the United States were to insist on such an approach.

  • NCUC explained that the implications of legislation, like PROTECT IP Act and SOPA, will have a negative impact upon the Internet’s design and can potentially create serious international political and legal problems. Compromise Internet freedom held dearly by various organizations and institutions, like the OECD, the European Parliament, the Internet Society and the Council of Europe – all of whom have committed to preserve this freedom and requested the United States to commit as well to preserving this freedom.

    Ending with an appeal to the Committee to consider their viewpoints also expressed by a multitude of actors and organizations and not support legislation that undermined the global Internet.

    Global big media infotainment interests

    The role of the media, according to the book Globalization: A Very Short Introduction, Manfred B. Steger, Oxford University Press (2003) wrote:-

    “To a large extent, the global cultural flows of our time are generated and directed by global media empires that rely on powerful communication technologies to spread their message. Saturating global cultural reality with formulaic TV shows and mindless advertisements, these corporations increasingly shape people's identities and the structure of desires around the world. During the last two decades, a small group of very large TNCs[Transnational Corporations] have come to dominate the global market for entertainment, news, television, and film. In 2000, only ten media conglomerates - AT&T, Sony, AOL/Time Warner, Bertelsmann, Liberty Media, Vivendi Universal, Viacom, General Electric, Disney, and News Corporation - accounted for more than two-thirds of the $250-275 billion in annual worldwide revenues generated by the communications industry. In the first half of that year, the volume of merger deals in global media, Internet, and telecommunications totalled $300 billion, three times the figure for the first six months of 1999.

    As recently as 15 years ago, not one of the giant corporations that dominate what Benjamin Barber has appropriately called the 'infotainment telesector' existed in its present form as a media company. In 2001, nearly all of these corporations ranked among the largest 300 non-financial firms in the world. Today, most media analysts concede that the emergence of a global commercial-media market amounts to the creation of a global oligopoly similar to that of the oil and automotive industries in the early part of the 20th century. The crucial cultural innovators of earlier decades – small, independent record labels, radio stations, movie theatres, newspapers, and book publishers - have become virtually extinct as they found themselves incapable of competing with the media giants.

    The negative consequences of this shotgun marriage of finance and culture are obvious. TV programmes turn into global 'gossip markets', presenting viewers and readers of all ages with the vacuous details of the private lives of American celebrities like Britney Spears, Jennifer Lopez, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Kobe Bryant. Evidence suggests that people all over the world - but especially those from wealthy countries of the Northern hemisphere - are watching more television than ever before. For example, the daily average viewing time per TV home in the United States has increased from 5 hours and 56 minutes in 1970 to 7 hours and 26 minutes in 1999.

    That same year, TV household penetration in the US stood at a record 98.3%, with 73.9% of TV households owning two or more sets. Advertisement clutter on US television reached unprecedented levels in 2000, peaking at over 15 minutes of commercials per prime time TV hour, not including the frequent cutaways for local ads. The TV advertisement volume in the US has increased from $3.60 billion in 1970 to $50.44 billion in 1999. Recent studies show that American children at age 12 watch an average of 20,000 TV commercials a year, and 2-year-old toddlers have already developed brand loyalties.

    The values disseminated by transnational media enterprises secure not only the undisputed cultural hegemony of popular culture, but also lead to the depoliticization of social reality and the weakening of civic bonds. One of the most glaring developments of the last two decades has been the transformation of news broadcasts and educational programmes into shallow entertainment shows.

    Given that news is less than half as profitable as entertainment, media firms are increasingly tempted to pursue higher profits by ignoring journalism's much vaunted separation of newsroom practices and business decisions. Partnerships and alliances between news and entertainment companies are fast becoming the norm, making it more common for publishing executives to press journalists to cooperate with their newspapers' business operations. A sustained attack on the professional autonomy of journalism is, therefore, also part of cultural globalization.”

    What Next?

    First, the State Department will thereafter lose face and the moral authority to preach internet freedom to the world while expected US laws imposed to the rest of the world mean the complete opposite.

    After October last year's Department of Homeland Security's unilateral disabling of domain names accused of IPR infringement U.S. Government Seizes BitTorrent Search Engine Domain and More alternative DNS systems are contemplated.

    The move could backfire even further. Internet users may opt for alternative domain name registrars threatening over 130 million US global leadership on domains names registration business and hosting services business worth over US$ 10 billion dollars estimated - excluding costlier web hosting revenues earned by US web hosts companies.

    Domain name and hosting business migration to non-US countries would be a further blow to hurting US economy and jobs migrating elsewhere. Emergent new hosting countries, for a start, will begin chipping away US relevance on content and its hosting industries.

    Plausibly triggering a global rebellion to Hollywood content thus defeating US lawmakers, big studios, music industry content and big media regaining control and monopoly over entertainment and other information dissemination – counter to stated objectives to make more money with US content.

    If India's Bollywood and Nigeria's Nollywood be examples, “Otherwood” phenomenon could catch on now with different content, domain names and hosting business and Internet users that “Want Nothing US”- leaving a disastrous end game triggered by SOPA and PIPA devastating an otherwise recovering US economy.

    Meanwhile, African governments whom had heavily spent their citizens taxes promoting the spread, use of and for Internet-enabled innovation are now forced back on the drawing board for strategies on how to counter threats to their national interests and peoples online presence should the proposed American legislations be made law.

    There can never be a simpler illustration of internet fragmentation - courtesy of Hollywood, big US music label companies, multinational media corporations and a few IP Industry sharks eagerly waiting to cannibalise off Internet fragmentation beyond their fill.

    Had the Internet been patented?

    Let's appreciate the shared wisdom and foresight of it's inventors,"Then the question was would it be something that could be rolled out to the rest of the world? We didn't know for sure but when we worked on it, we decided not to patent, not to copyright, not to control, but to share everything we knew about the Internet design to the general public all around the world." Vint Cerf

    Vint Cerf/Wikimedia

    For further reading consider:

    Founder of Internet Fears 'Unprecedented' Web Censorship From SOPA
    SOPA: The New American Censorship?
    How SOPA Could Ruin My Life
    How SOPA 2.0 Sneaks In A Really Dangerous Private Ability To Kill Any Website

    [Please Note: This was blog post was composed and uploaded amidst suddenly unexpected DNS challenges. The author may, in due course, update it for better contextual accuracy, linguistic, phraseology and layout. Thank you for understanding]

    Saturday, December 10, 2011

    Greatest innovation since M-Pesa

    Imagine a mobile phone application offering users dynamic, SMS-driven menus to access or request different information from a database. Unlike on past network-centric programs thus far developed, one where the main application and database are both installed on the organisation's computers. No program need be installed on users phones since they only send and receive ordinary text messages.

    Configurable menu on users handsets for their optional information querying determined by the settings defined by the corporate/organisation's IT system administrator. Essentially leaving mobile networks as dumb pipes - or mere transporters of text messages between office server and mobile phone users.

    Such an application would have a potential client base of every mobile phone user-regardless of the make of their handsets. Kenya had 25.27 million subscribers in June 30 (64.2 per cent) of the population, reports CCK. Photo: Alex Gakuru

    And because each organisation could install a customised program and database version, it would open doors to endless use-case possibilities. From users prior establishing supermarkets prices, such as, foodstuffs such as sugar or beverages and others stead of wasting time walking to different stores to get their best deals. Medical institutions querying a patient's medical history, referrals or lookups for allergies and drug interactions in emergency treatments.

    Imagine no more courtesy of innovator Martin Maina, such an application exists and made in Kenya. Martin first shared his innovation with me last year for a magazine article. Today held follow-up interview to get an update on his application further development.

    "I have received very encouraging comments from various people saying that it is very good. A medical insurance organisation likes it because it helps them verify referrals claims and real doctors," said he,"I've integrated the application for use throughout East Africa and South Sudan."

    Asked what other uses had emerged Martin said, "I am considering a version with restaurants menus and prices. This will enable those planning to go eat out know offered foods and costs helping them better budget on their outings."

    The rib cracking programmer added, "On pizza delivery, it's difficult for consumers to figure out what to order or what is on offer, sizes and toppings. This application can walk through customers on the various options, from the convenience of their mobile phone and if and when ready to order confirm the order. For pizza delivery outlets offering M-Pesa 'pay bill' option the customers can also pay, enter their location then sit back and wait for the pizza."

    Further development is ongoing integrating his SMS-driven application to a web-based application. The objective being to make it more versatile for internet-connected 'smartphone' users preferring to use richer graphical interfaces and/or those intending to avoid SMS costs.

    The four mobile networks charge between 50 cents, 1 shilling and 2 shillings per SMS. YU offers the lowest rate at 50 cents, Airtel charges Sh1 to all local networks while Safaricom and Orange/ Telkom charges Sh2 for messages across networks, reports media. However, Safaricom charges Sh 2 for off-net messages while it was not possible to establish Orange charges considering their website did not indicate their SMS charges.

    Whereas have mobile phones with Safaricom, Orange and Airtel lines, Airtel remains my preferred line because the network has consistently informed the charges after every call made and SMS sent - which Safaricom and Orange never do creating room for consumers to suspect their billing practices as emerged on Businessweek online article legal battles among prepaid providers bring the shady side of the business to light. It would be welcome to know whether or not YU informs after every call and SMS.

    The inventor is currently exploring different business models that will assure him a return on his invention's web integration. Rightly concerned that offering a free online service costing high web databases hosting added to information collections and records digitisation costs would not be business sustainable. But he remains open to NGOs and other public interest communication proposals.

    It is with profound gratitude to Michael Onyango for, severally, pointing me to Alexander Oswald's talk, Why Kenyans do it better. But hasten to add that just like in Austria local mobile applications developers have lately tended to adopt fashionable 'smartphone' platforms to their users base disadvantage.

    While Martin continues sophisticating his ingenious innovation, at its current development stage it can be harnessed for unparalleled governance. Judiciary was quoted in the media recently seeking ICT solutions to expedite justice. This mobile program could be engaged to enable Judiciary customers determine the status of their court cases in a faster, clearer and more transparent system of justice delivery – right to the customers hands, and from anywhere.

    Without a doubt, this innovation has potential far greater than M-Pesa. Architectually introducing a 'peer-to-peer' SMS triggered transactions unlike other network-resident applications. Add strong SMS Encryption and one would not be surprised to find banks considering it if as to get back at mobile companies for snatching their banking customers with now widespread mobile payments solutions.

    Wednesday, December 7, 2011

    Rwandan online Journalist in exile assassinated

    Photo: Charles Ingabire/CPJ

    Charles Ingabire, Rwandan online editor of Inyenyeri News was assassinated in Kampala, Uganda last Thursday. Charles, an outspoken critic of the Rwandan government, was shot at 2 am by unknown assailants reportedly riding in a 4x4 vehicle as he boarded a boda boda ride home. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

    His laptop containing passwords to Inyenyeri News website was stolen enabling his attackers access to the news portal and pull it offline for days before the owners managed to re-gain its control.

    “The Inyenyeri News management has no doubt about the identity and motives of Mr Ingabire’s assassins. We are aware of continuous threats he had received from member of the Rwandan government agents against his life. Recently he was attacked, beaten and sustained serious injuries which required two weeks of hospitalization,” states the official anouncement.

    An editorial at different site,, narrates developments leading to Mr Ingabire’s death.

    The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) strongly condemned the killing of the online journalist and called on the police to identify the culprits and bring them to justice. Urged Ugandan police to do their utmost to investigate the murder and ensure journalists can work freely without fear of reprisal in the country.

    In 2007, he left Kigali, Rwanda's capital, and began working as a correspondent for the critical online site Umuvugizi from Kampala. He started working for Inyenyeri last year, local journalists said.

    Critical journalists are not tolerated in Rwanda, CPJ research shows. Since April 2010, six journalists fearing intimidation and arrests have fled in exile, according to CPJ research. Two Rwandan journalists, Agnès Uwimana and Saidati Mukakibibi, currently face lengthy prison sentences for insulting President Paul Kagame along with other charges.

    Police recovered five casings of a sub-machine gun at the scene of the crime as well as Ingabire's cell phone, news reports said. The police also held for questioning two employees of the bar, since the journalist frequented the establishment, news reports said.

    This was not the first time Ingabire was attacked. Local journalists told CPJ that unknown assailants attacked the journalist two months ago in Kampala, took the laptop he was carrying, and demanded he shut down Inyenyeri.

    Ingabire is the second Rwandan journalist killed in less than two years, according to CPJ research. In June last year, former deputy editor of Umuvugizi, Jean-Léonard Rugambage, was shot as he drove home in Kigali. Two suspects were convicted on homicide charges, but CPJ and local journalists expressed deep skepticism about the prosecution.

    East Africa relied on satellite Internet connectivity until recently. In early 2006 at a public meeting in Nairobi called upon leaders to prepare all of us for the societal transformation expected with upcoming widespread connectivity posing, “We soon expect to be connected with fibre optic cables and internet spreading throughout the country. But are politicians prepared for the change? When their rural constituents will no longer need to wait for their 'rural visits' to inform them what was going on in the capital city? That regardless of where a citizen lives, they will know not just what is happening in Nairobi, but in the country and indeed the whole world. And politicians' relevance will be much diminished.”

    Attacks on Freedom of Expression online have intensified in Africa following the 'Arab Spring' toppling of dictators. Sub-Saharan regimes afraid of the Internet's power to catalyse revolutions have embarked on targeting and assassinating succeeding online human rights activists.

    The global picture of online suppression is depressing. Global Voices Online monitors threats to online expression reported with an up-to-date mapping tool (snapshot of 7 December, 2011 below).
    Courtesy: Global Voices Online (view current threats map)

    Looking ahead, it would be far much easier if despots forgot long gone top-down, command and control era. Reformed early to fully embrace democracy, human rights and the rule of law. Maybe they could hang onto power for a short while longer, but hate to disappoint those imagining that they can cling on to power fighting the Internet's bottom-up generative new power.

    It would be far much easier, for everyone, if these rulers frightened by increasingly sophisticated social media platforms providing powerful new mass action avenues learned to accept their misgovernance criticisms and did something to fix it rather than resorting to murdering rights champions. Fomenting rebellions that likely lead to their forceful overthrows through people power. They need to realise that every assassination breeds grounds for multitudes of new online revolts which once crystallized consolidated will ungraciously hound them out of power that had got into their heads and veins.

    Update: 09 December, 2011

    For further reading consider: Rwandan journalist's killing raises safety concerns for other exiled journalists and free expression related: Civil society condemns detention of media workers in Zimbabwe Courtesy of

    Saturday, December 3, 2011

    IP Industry Copyright Extremists Want the World, for themselves not the creatives

    Courtesy: Linux Multi Media Studio

    It was bemusing to read on Kenya ICT consumers mailing list a joke setting where a man is arrested for singing a love song to his wife in their car while he had not paid shillings 3,000 to the Music Copyright Society of Kenya – infringing copyright on the local musician whom sung the song. If it were true, would you thank an omnipresent MCSK watchful eyes and attentive ears protecting local artistes works? Or curse them for a ruinous intrusiveness into the couples' love life?

    Did you also know that "Happy Birthday" is copyrighted? Watch out next time your kids have a birthday party - you might pay dearly. Jessica Hill published and copyrighted Happy Birthday in 1935. While the copyright should have expired in 1991, copyright has been extended repeatedly over the last quarter of the twentieth century and the copyright for Happy Birthday is now not due to expire until at least 2030, states and Singing Happy Birthday in Public Is Copyright Infringement

    But that was two days ago, 30 November, 2011 and the amusement quite short-lived.

    How it all begun:

    Charles was having a haircut in Nairobi last Saturday at 5 pm. Two gentlemen from MCSK walks in to the salon and demand to have license for the TV. Please note, the salon did not have any music system installed just a television set. The salon owner had never heard of such fees and tried to explain as such. MCSK agents then tried to remove the TV set from the salon compelling Charles intervention in a bid to try to understand under what, constitutional, law gave MCSK powers to walk into a private business premises demand a license and then enforce the concept of collecting fees by removing the TV from a business owner?

    He later took the trouble to visit MCSK offices to better understand but the explanation given left even more confused....when the music is played at a restaurant through TV or Radio or DVD one must pay for the right to harness artistes creativity to earn money for yourself.

    MCSK agents are scouring the country on foot and by car, ever on the lookout for new bars and restaurants or salons that aren’t paying for their music that they do not want to listen to begin with. Harassing establishments that have installed TV sets for sports and other programs and not music.

    "Thanks Charles for raising it." Waundo Siganga said, “Sometime early this year I chanced into the MCSK offices in Kakamega and found them stacked with a cache of impounded TVs. Most of them were taken from football kibandas where the owners had already paid content fees through Multichoice. can these guys not be stopped? It appears that arguing with these guys when they arrive is a waste of time.”

    Copyright Act Unconstitutional?

    On Inspectors Part V- Inspection Section 39(1) on the Copyright Act states:- “The [Kenya Copyright] Board shall, for the purposes of enforcing the provisions of this Act, appoint such number of inspectors as the Board considers appropriate and shall issue to them, in writing or in such form as may be prescribed, certificates of authority to act as such inspectors.”

    Section 40 of the Act Entry into premises reads:- “Subject to the provisions of this section, an inspector may, at any reasonable time and on production of his certificate of authority, enter any premises, ship, aircraft or vehicle for the purpose of ascertaining whether there is or has been, on or in connexion with such premises, ship, aircraft or vehicle any contravention of this Act.

    Constitutional Bill of Rights in force on upon promulgation of the Constitution of Kenya in August 2010 provides under Privacy and Warrantless Searches and Seizures, Article 31 states:-
    Every person has the right to privacy, which includes the right not to have—
    (a) their person, home or property searched;
    (b) their possessions seized;
    (c) information relating to their family or private affairs
    unnecessarily required or revealed; or
    (d) the privacy of their communications infringed.
    Inspectors without a court order/warrant, confiscating private property, using unconstitutional, Copyright Act self-granted powers, representing an unlicensed Collecting Society(MCSK license expired in October, 2011) are, in my view, a clear illustration of impunity in enforced of the rule of law. The police need first obtain court orders before entering, searching, and seizing private property, it begs answer how the Copyright Act can grant Kenya Copyright Board such unconstitutional powers – to use public resources in protecting private benefit copyrights?

    Booming Local IP Industry Rewarding Creators?

    Make no mistake, content creators must be rewarded for their works. But do collecting societies - likes of MCSK, really benefit local music creators or do they “sell” a noble cause to the public which once “sold” gets corrupted ending up benefiting only unto themselves?

    Media reports Kenya Copyright Board accusing MCSK of spending more than legal 30 per cent of its revenues on its own operations. MCSK’s expenses stood at Sh137 million in the year to June 2010 against revenues of Sh185 million, leaving it with a surplus of Sh48 million or 25 per cent of its collections, which are supposed to go to musicians. MCSK’s accountants confirmed that MCSK has not managed to keep within this limit as the total expenditure in the year 2009/2010 was 76.4 per cent of the total revenue collected.

    Top artistes earned a maximum of Sh100,000 per month in royalties which is very little considering the hosts of sources MCSK collects on their behalf and compared with Sh 150,000 such artistes easily made performing per gig, regardless of how short it might be. Furthermore, it morally unacceptable for MCSK to spend over 3 quarters of the total revenue collected on oneself leaving a paltry quarter to distribute to the artistes.

    The scenario is no different globally. Its big business among Big Label music companies and movie promotion companies. They front an innocent “reward innovation” façade behind which they make lots of money, but for themselves.

    Complicated further by corporations employing the real innovators whom pay peanuts compared to the market value of their innovations. Such include software development companies where employed programmers -the real innovators-whose creativity ends up claimed by the employer.

    Dispelling the "Intellectual Property" Myths

    One of the most common misunderstandings regarding intellectual property rights, particularly copyright, is that the actual creators are the main beneficiaries of the grant. In reality, it is the large companies that employ creators and then strip them of their copyright through contracts who actually benefit from the grant society intended as a reward for authors. This important misunderstanding is no accident. Misleading "romantic notions of authorship" are systematically spun by the companies who stand in the shoes of creators to justify the generous monopoly right rewarded to them.

    Another major myth regarding "intellectual property" protection is that it is the same as more traditional forms of property such as personal property or real estate. But this conflation of intellectual property is grossly misleading and harmful. Copying another's intellectual creation does not end the owner's right to make use of the original. Intellectual property rights are created only as a means to encourage further creativity for the ultimate benefit of all society, while more traditional forms of property rights are designed to protect the personal and private interests of their owners. This crucial distinction can be seen when considering that one's house is not intended to pass into the public domain at some time; nor does anyone have a fair use right to borrow another's car. Intellectual property is intended to have ownership "holes", to be imperfect in its control, while real or personal property are more absolute in the their grants to owners.

    Equating these very different forms of property rights together leads to the inevitable restriction of the public's rights giving way to more absolute property rights for large entertainment companies. Those wishing to maximize copyrights often merge the differing types of property together, appealing to society's natural affection for traditional property rights in an effort to confuse and extend that affection to a different concept, writes

    Then today, courtesy of NCSG Internet policy list, received yet another email that read, “I noticed that the Stop Online Piracy Act (or SOPA) makes it a felony to upload a video of someone singing a copyrighted song with up to 5 years in prison. Dr. Conrad Murry who was convicted of killing Michael Jackson for manslaughter was only facing a 4 year maximum sentence. So it's a bigger crime to sing one of Michael Jackson's songs than it is to kill him. Think about it.”

    Leaves one wondering what the Kenya Copyright Board would be doing to protected local content online from predators? Is the tax-funded public Board protecting foreign or local Intellectual Property interests? Are their energies focussed mostly on domestic protection while shying away from 'complicated' www? One hopes that they do not operate along the Gikuyu proverb that says, ruui runagira haria hahuthu. (the river escapes through the ground that is soft) wishing away the challenges associated with local content online theft?

    Twelve months ago a leading Kenyan musician narrated their pains at releasing a song only to find the entire album uploaded online sometimes being offered for free or as a value-add gift. A far cry from the impression given by developed countries' IP Industry how Africans are content pirates. What mechanisms exist to arrest and prosecute African content pirates abroad? Which includes software and local mobile applications innovations, among others.

    Let's wake up to the reality that copyright extremists quietly executed their evil plans to control the world. If anything, last week's Kenya ICT Consumers mailing list experience much domesticate and illustrate the greatest global Intellectual Property assets and warfare threatening to break the core of the internet. The Internet is threatened by old, dying empires putting up their last struggle to change things back to the way back to they it used to be, said Ian Peter at past IGF.


    Challenging the old copyright construct are Open Content Licensing models, such as, Free music from Jamendo (boasting over 336,249 music tracks) free to download and/or stream and grants users free unlimited legal sharing. Providing artists a platform to interact with their fans, distribution tools, powerful statistics and new ways of making money with free music!

    Magnatune offering thousands of free music albums for download and generates money from voluntary membership fees or ThisIsOpenMusic! launched in November 2008 - an open source music label run by musicians operating from Brighton in the UK.

    “We don’t believe in the conventional record label. Our objective is to release great music and sound projects from around the world, in a free, share-friendly and re-distributable manner. We encourage you to redistribute individual tracks or whole releases via sharing links, Peer-to-Peer networks, MP3 Blogs and any other form you see fit, as long as you respect the rights of the respective Artists and follow the rules of the Creative Commons Sharing License,” states website.

    Image Courtesy: Mythbuntu

    MythTV - a free and open source entertainment application turns a computer with the necessary hardware into a network streaming digital video recorder, a digital multimedia entertainment system or home theatre personal computer. It can be considered as a free and open source alternative to that runs on various operating systems, primarily Linux/Mac/FreeBSD. Not forgetting countless free videos available at and

    Notwithstanding the above, it would be very interesting to note reactions of Music Copyright Society of Kenya inspectors upon visiting commercial establishments installed with elaborate audio video systems whom refuse to pay MCSK license fees simply because they only streamed/played downloaded music and video released under Creative Commons content licenses.

    We thank Charles for igniting an educating discussion on a perplexing copyright enforcement Kenya route. For highlighting plausible violations of Constitutional Bill of Rights, impunity fuelling an unlicensed entity to trespass, extort and confiscate private property from unsuspecting citizens and for screaming at possibly illegal uses of public taxes/resources to protect private copyright "IP" property.

    As private interests continue chipping away public interest concerns, harsher economic times biting harder, an increasing number of Intellectual Property lawyers aligning themselves to the “buttered side of bread”, it rekindles hope to witness an individual going out of his way to protect and catalyse entertainment rights of others, provoked by harassment of his barber-friend.