Thursday, November 24, 2011

Annual ICT Awards 2011

I attended the Computer Society of Kenya (CSK) organized Annual ICT Awards Ceremony for the year 2011 and was disappointed in most areas.

Starting from getting information about the awards ceremony: information about the event even from the CSK website were scanty. Just check the CSK website at http://www.cskonline.org/ and you will be deeply disappointed at the usability level of the website! Honestly, I believe a college student who has done some website design and usability analysis requirements for websites can do so much better. The site is not navigable in the first place nor is it informative, it is cluttered with adverts on key areas right on the home page.

Secondly, publicity for the event was not adequate. In this age where technology is driving what is happening in the world, such an event not being advertised even on social media (for heaven's sake this is free) is rather disappointing. I've not checked but I wonder whether CSK is on any social media platform; be it Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. [I've checked on Facebook and I've seen that CSK has a page which was last updated on 29th July - no mention of the just ended event]. How can a society which is supposed to shape the future of technology space be so behind in using technology to disseminate what I consider so key? How can they champion what they don't use? ...........


The event, as per the invitation card that I had, was scheduled to start at 6.30 pm and end around 10.00pm. I arrived at Laico Regency Hotel at at 6.33pm and to my dismay, I was told that they were arranging some tables ( or whatever) and I just had to wait for some 30 minutes. By 7.00 pm the event had not started and people who were arriving were told to hang around as the preparations for the event was not complete. Just hang around and do nothing and yet people rushed through the jam to be there in time? There was no courtesy even to provide seats outside where we were standing! I was dismayed and disappointed to the core.

The event ultimately kicked off at around 8.00 pm - that is 1 hour and 30 minutes past the scheduled start time. I left around 9.35 pm after the induction to the ICT Hall of Fame of Dr. Katherin Getao of the eGovernment Directorate and Mr. Harish Parekh of Computer Technics.

You can find the complete list of the awardees at the link: http://www.cskonline.org/awards.html.

My verdict: poor event planning, poor publicity. Can do better.

I will seriously consider attending another CSK event in the future.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

What is the 'real' value of certifications to companies and their customers?

 In the current Kenya setup, there are a number of companies that are aspiring to get coveted international certifications like ISO for quality management systems, environmental or security requirements compliance, etc. but how many are actually striving to improve their service offerings to their customers? Few. Many just want to flaunt them to their competitors and prospective customers but not on improvement of their service delivery.

Take the example of some public universities (I think almost all of them). They have ISO 9001:2008 certification. But how many lecturers and administrators in these universities appreciate that students are their most important customers? Very few. This is precisely the reason why you will have an ISO certified university that does not have a clear policy (or is it direction?) of where admission forms should be ‘deposited’ or returned to!

I had a nasty experience the other day where I had to shuttle between two university campuses trying to convince the secretaries (these are the people you will mostly interact with in a university set up) that, as per the forms, I was supposed to 'deposit' them at their offices. Ultimately, since I would not convince any, I left in a huff and waited to hear from my colleagues where the forms are supposed to be taken. This incident brings me to the question: this university being ISO certified, does it mean that there is no clear policy on where admission forms are supposed to be delivered? What about what is indicated on the forms? If there is, whose responsibility is it that it is adhered to, when prospective students are sent from one corridor or campus to another and they have no recourse? It is very disheartening, annoying and frustrating to say the least. Or just sort out the mess by implementing an online admission system. And issues will be sorted out, pap!

On another day, I'd the opportunity to walk to DT Dobie trying to locate some spare part for my car and I was indeed impressed by the service offered there. Honestly, those guys don't need an ISO certification, for as a customer, you feel adequately guided and valued as you enter the place. There is a place to pick an entry number, a clear way to queue to be served promptly, another place to pay and an additional place where to sit as you wait for the goods to be delivered (all this does not take more than 15 minutes). Also, all these activities happen within an area of less than 20 metres apart. Surely, does a company require an ISO certification to offer such services? My customers need to feel valued once they step into my 'shop'. This is what all companies need to do.

Inversely, an institution has all the certification it can afford to get but when a customer calls, nobody cares to pick the call and when he comes around, he is taken around the office as if he came for a tour of your offices! I have seen instances where corporations strive to be in their best behaviour when they hear that there is going to be an audit to be done. Is this the spirit of certifications? Nope!

There is a fallacy more so in government owned institutions where ISO certification is becoming part of their performance contract rather than an improvement on their service offering; before they can even think of any certification. How many institutions have the ISO certification but their inefficiency stinks to high heaven and conversely how many institutions do not have any certifications but their service delivery is superb? Private companies can survive if only their service offerings are better than their competition, but they also need to do that so that they can weather the storm.

My guess is that government institutions are being ‘forced’ to offer quality services by getting a certification! But is this helping? My honest opinion is No! It is not helping at all: until their business processes are refined or re-engineered and their culture turned on its head, theirs is a waste of money and it is indeed demeaning to Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS) that they should certify some clearly incompetent entities. Let KEBS and their partners advise prospective certifees ( I hope there is such a term) that they need to put their house in order before that paper can be handed to them. It is my sincere hope that these certifications will not be considered a worthless paper by offering it to some dubious characters.

Customers demand quality services and not certifications hanging from offices’ walls!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The battle for dotAfrica; who will get the crown jewels?

This is an article which I penned in the Business Daily of 8th July 2011 concerning the battle for .africa domain name.

The article can also be accessed at http://www.africareview.com/Special+Reports/Battle+on+for+dotAfrica/-/979182/1197116/-/87uo0s/-/index.html - on the African Review website.

The same article can be found on the AllAfrica website at http://allafrica.com/stories/201107081489.html.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

'Censoring' your status updates, tweets etc on social media

National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) has indicated that they plan to track any hate speech on social media and promptly nab any wayward status updates on Facebook, racial or discriminative tweets on twitter and all other social media.

The following is my honest take on this:

It is important to know how to communicate by taking into consideration your audience and a myriad of other factors like the time of your talk. However, how can this be done when 'saying' something online? The internet is accessible by the whole world! Anyway, social media has greatly helped the revolution in the North African Nations of Tunisia and Egypt ( and the Arab world) and the revolution is virally spreading further to Libya, Mali and a host of other nations; even closer home, to our next door neighbour, Uganda – I don’t like the treatment being meted out to Besigye and company – it is barbaric and a crime against humanity: unfair and the highest level of cowardice. This might be trigger like that of the young Tunisian man setting him ablaze that set the whole country ablaze and ultimately set it free!

I have tracked some of the comments and status updates on Facebook (and I want to single this media out), and I can say that they are quite diabolical in the heavy tribal undertones some of them have. Sometimes I feel that we bash our politicians when all of us indeed might do precisely what the politicians do and say. It is embarrassing and irritating at the same time. Unfortunately this is the case despite the fact that some of those comments are being made by people who are below 40 years - whom one expects to be more open minded and have less baggage of tribes and races in their blood and even talk. But if those comments are anything to go by, then Kenya has a long journey to go before we reach that Promised Land. Probably some 40 biblical years can do for Kenya to reach the Promised Land, our Canaan.

One thing is for sure: NCIC will not have easy work trying to locate these guys. This is due to the fact that they use pseudonyms rather than their real names when posting some nasty comments - this itself means that they know it is wrong and hence cannot afford to identify themselves. However, in a worst case scenario, every device connected to the Net can be uniquely identified by an IP address which can be located to an individual (device) – this way these guys cannot hide forever.

However, why hide if you believe that what you are saying is right? Just say it and even if people might not agree with you now you will be their hero tomorrow, once you convince them. Have the muscle, the stamina and the courage to stand up for your ideas and you will stand to be counted later on; when vindicated by time.

Stop hate speech to have a freerer world.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Joining the Internet Society

We need to shape the future and direction of the Internet. We can only do so by joining a global body like the Internet Society to be able to put our case across.

However, I'm rather disappointed to realize that the society does not have have a Kenyan Chapter may be because we don't have the numbers. We need to register, as Kenyans, both locally and from the diaspora, to be able to form vibrant local chapter which can handle 'internet' matters concerning Kenya and our beloved country.

It should be noted that 'young' countries like Rwanda have a local chapter. What does this mean to us? That Rwanda is technologically ahead of us? I don't know but it seems like it is. We need to do something for ourselves and this can be the opportunity.

Register yourselves at https://portal.isoc.org/EBusiness/NewMemberStepOne.aspx?refid=xd1371053hf to shape the future of this very important resource.

I look forward to seeing you onboard soon.