Thursday, October 9, 2008

skunkworks@innovation event recap

note - new blog is here:

Visit Erik's blog and Alex Gakuru's blog for more coverage of the event.

(Special thanks to Ngaara Nelson (ngaara (at) for the logo design)

Part 1 of Demos:

John Maina kicked off the presentations with a talk on Education Tourism. He made the argument that Kenya loses so much money as people seek education abroad (even if its in next door Uganda), yet Kenya has arguably the best equipped educational institutions. However Kenya's marketing itself as an educational destination is hardly done. Quite thought provoking. Download the entire presentation in Microsoft PPT 2003 format.

John Maina.View full album online

Kenneth Mwangi, a final year student at Strathmore University next made a presentation on Tulipe, an E-Commerce Framework for Payments. He quoted Isaac Newton - 'Standing on the Shoulders' of giants, to refer to how his prototype rides on existing systems that are widely in use, for instance Safaricom's MPESA and the highly successful Equity Bank. The prototype is intended to be operator agnostic and merchant (bank) agnostic which would indeed be a novel achievement, and something that the market has been waiting for. Erik's blog also covers this presentation. Download the entire presentation in PDF format. (Image courtesy of

e-commerce framework

Fabian Owuor and Andrew Ketoyo of Metrocomia EA then made a presentation on an E-Book based solution that aims to ease the collection and dissemination of information. Some of the problems that they identified as being solvable with this E-Book, include national examinations (keeping in mind the number of subjects people study as well as the popularity of past papers), a staff training handbook and publications - for instance the Kenya Gazette. Download the entire presentation in Microsoft PPT 2003 format.

Fabian Owuor View full album online

Sam Kitonyi (UON) and Victor Murage (Africa Nazarene University) nexted presented Kikwe, a way to send airtime across Africa. Kikwe allows anyone to send airtime to a loved one online from the comfort of one's desk. It allows sending of airtime to any network and provides an easy to use interface. Some of the challenges that the team has identified include the risk of fraud and the development of partnerships in Africa. Download the entire presentation in Microsoft PPT 2007 format.

Sam and Victor. View full album online

Ken Kasina started by running a video demo of Wesley Kiriinya's Game, The Adventures of Nyangi. This was a show case of the talent and potential available locally, especially as game development requires a high level of technical skill. During the question and answer session after this demo, Wesley (who was not present) and other game developers were challenged to enhance the quality of their games to bring them up to par with other internationally available games. Ken Kasina also talked about the localization of software, particularly FOSS applications. He has been heavily involved in several localization projects including that of KDE. Being also a highly skilled developer, he's also an active contributor to various FOSS projects. He urged those present to consider contributing to localisation of various software as this would enhance the adoption of information technology countrywide.

Ken Kasina & Erik Hersmann. View full album online

Mugambi Kimathi, CEO of VST Studios made a presentation on Jahazi. Jahazi aims at enabling people who are not familiar with the internet to be able to take advantage of what the internet has to offer from an easy to use interface. Mugambi took those present through the various features of jahazi, which currently is available for Windows based systems. One other key feature of jahazi is its ability to allow any software developer to create applications for any use (e.g. online booking for an airline like KQ, or a stocks watchlist) thus opening up the platform for any individual or user to tap into. The full presentation is available online here.

The team. View full album online

Charles Gathii, the MD of Microhouse Technologies next talked about his company. Microhouse provide solutions to various enterprises, among them various companies (like the hosts Sarova Panafrica) and educational institutions. Majority of the software development is done locally by local developers. Charles urged students interested in doing database development to learn and master oracle, and get certified as there is a shortage of skilled labour in this area in Kenya.

Charles Gathii. View full album online

Bonn Ndegwa of Unwired Technologies next made a presentation on Time Tabler, a low cost timetabler tat is designed for use by institutions that do not have a large budget for information technology products. Interesting to note was the fact that the company is not based in Nairobi, like majority of IT firms in Kneya, but in Western Kenya. They specialize in developing solutions for rural communities. Download the entire presentation in Microsoft PPT 2003 format.

Bonn Ndegwa. View full album online

Josh Jingo then made a presentation on and the possibilities locally. Using tools like blender and having the right amount of skill, one could easily come up with high quality animations (as was aptly demonstated). He however noted that one of the greatest challenges facing them was the fact that many media houses, and those seeking to have animations created for television opt to go abroad (for instance to India and South Africa), yet there was sufficient talent and ability locally.


We then broke for lunch, which was co-sponsored by Safaricom, Kenya ICT Board and the Ministry of Information and Communications. (KICTB promised lunches for everyone (skunkworks..) who comes to the next such meeting)

After lunch, there was a brief lightning round session of 2-3 minute random talks from participants for about 15 minutes.

Alex Gakuru then came up to talk about the main purpose of the event which was to enhance linkages between software developers and solution providers, and those in need of solutions as well as industry leaders. He then welcomed representatives of the sponsors of the event to give brief speeches. The sponsors of the event where the KENIC, Wananchi Group, Strathmore University, Kenya ICT Board and Safaricom. Many thanks go to them for enabling this event to be a success.

Alex Gakuru View full album online

Alex then welcomed Telkom Kenya CEO Dominique Saint-Jean to make some remarks. Mr Dominique was pleasantly surprised by the 'positive energy' he experienced when entering the room, which is a testament to the enthusiasm of those present at the event. He emphasised on the importance of local content saying that it is imperative that more local content be developed. He also promised to listen serious proposals from local developers within a 'reasonable time frame'. Many thanks to Dominique Saint-Jean for sparing time to grace the event.

Mr. Dominique Saint-JeanView full album online

Finally, the PS, Information and Technology, Dr. Bitange Ndemo made his keynote address. He mentioned that he would have loved to be present from the beginning of the forum but was not able to . He said that more opportunities and forums are needed for exchange of ideas and proposed that every two months, a forum similar to this take place. He also mentioned that there is going to be a huge demand for talent in the outsourcing and software development arenas, something in the region of 5000-10000 new people over the next five years. He challenged local developers to come up with a local game - like 'ajua' that is unique to Kenya. Many thanks to the PS for taking time out of his busy schedule to come to the event, and also for the support he has been.

PS Dr Bitange Ndemo View full album online

Part two of demos then commenced:

Ngigi Waithaka of Alliance Technologies got the second part of presentations going. Alliance Technologies specializes enterprise grade solutions for companies, NGO's and educational institutions. Ngigi has also been at the forefront in promoting FOSS based solutions, and Alliance Technologies also conducts the deployment of open source systems such as ERPs. Ultima Gratis, a grant management system was show cased. Download the entire presentation in Microsoft PPT 2003 format.

Ngigi Waithaka. View full album online

Laban Mwangi, Penguin Labs - An Electronic Top-Up system using a terminal running an embedded version of Linux and capable of connecting to multiple operators by simply switching sim cards, and features a web browser among other things. The aim of this demonstration was to show an easy way of performing airtime distribution. It also show cased a practical application of Linux in an embedded device. Remote top up of airtime is also possible with this device. Download the entire presentation in PDF format.

Laban (centre). View full album online

Steve Mutinda next made a presentation on Mobile Social Networking and a Mobile Finance application. Steve is a talented mobile applications developer and has come up with a framework that allows various applications to be installed on a supported mobile device and range from social networking, chat, news and mobile finance. What he has come up with for the mobile phone is very much similar to what Mugambi has done with Jahazi. He also demostrated his Mobile Finance application which easily plugged in to the framework. Steve is also a member of the ushahidi dev team. Download the Social Networking presentation and the Mobile Finance presentation, both in PDF format.

Steve. View full album online

Mbugua Njihia, CEO Symbiotic Media Consortium next demonstrated some of their products; tumasms, zunguka, kelelemobile among others. Symbiotic aims to converge mobile and the web, and provide services and applications that any ordinary person can use. Some of these include sync services for mobile phone contacts and notes, bulk sms, mobile phone ring tones, and later on, possibly video on demand services. Download his presention here in PDF format.

Timothy Mbugua. View full album online

Evans Ikua representing the LPA Kenya and LANet Consulting made the final presentation. He gave a brief history of the LPA kenya, as well as some of the activities they are involved in. Currently LPA Kenya has been instrumental in constructively engaging the Government, specifically regarding the procurement of software so as to ensure that there is a level playing ground, and thus allow local software development houses, especially those utilizing Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) to be able to pitch for Government contracts. Government is the largest employer, and offers the largest number of contracts, therefore it is important for the Public Procument process to be as transparent as possible. Download his entire presentation in OpenOffice ODP format.

Evans View full album online


Finally, Paul Kukubo the CEO of the Kenya ICT Board had some final words for developers. He promised that, as an ICT Board initiative he intends in 6-8 months that a CEO s - Skunkworks partnership forum take place. This would go a long way in bridging the gap between developers/solution providers and industry leaders. He also mentioned that a fund to support local content development is being setup. He challenged skunkworks to come up with a Directory/Portal of developers, solutioneers etc on skunkworks for easy access by CEO s, and those seeking solutions. He mentioned some challenges from his experience for ICT startups:

  • No framework to govern Venture Capital

  • Cultural divide - where no chance is given to young people (developers etc)

Paul Kukubo View full album online

Thursday, October 2, 2008

skunkworks@innovation - 4th October

Alex Gakuru has been very busy co-ordinating this event scheduled for 4th October @ the Sarova Panafric Hotel.

What to expect on Saturday? Below is what we've come up with.

-Two separate rooms 1 for demos, other just lunch room
-Event starts at 8 am and runs till 4 pm
-Demonstrations room open to the public throughout the day
-A tables shall be allocated to every solution presenter/demo
-Skunkers luncheon at a different room between 12:00-2:00pm

Here's some more detail from what he'd posted on the mailing list:

It was not easy to find it! Neither was it easy to convince them, but
they finally bought into the idea.

After our sustained "support local software development!" screams,
they now say "ok." Lending us their ears and eyes, they want to see
the "wonderful software skunkworks have been screaming about??? They
have their cheque books ready and balk contract forms prepared to
sign-up your software purchase deals if impressed. Who are they, top
notch local industry executives.

Accompanied by senior government officials with state corporations
execs all supportive of homegrown software innovations. All ready to
work on removing every hiccup in your way of making it big time on
software development. It's what we've all been shrieking about and now
we have a chance of a life time.

Calling for "Innovative IT solutions"

Categories (thus far):
1.Corporate solutions
2.Mobile applications
3.Content applications
4.Document Management System – DMS (FOSS based?)
5.Communications (*Asterix* etc..)
6.Public Service Apps
7.Games ( Wesley et. al..)

Who qualifies?
- All local software developers.
- All previous Barcamp presentations automatically ( how many? categories
- (Non-discrimination!) FOSS and proprietary platforms developers with
- Priority will be given with those with applications to demonstrate

Luncheon proposed for Saturday 27 September, 2008, city hotel venue TBC.

Toying around with branding; "skunkworks@innovation," "Homegrown
Software Fete", chip-in?

They want to meet famous skunks -buy them a lunch or dinner- which was
ok, but considering that we should overwhelm them with our abundant
innovation, I have (singly) decided there will be 20 tables for
demonstrations. Total spaces are limited (but if I receive
overwhelming "innovative IT Solutions" demonstrations
applications...That would be a wonderful problem for me to solve:)

@josiah,@mich, @riyaz, @kiania et. al. compile past software presentations
@newbies send your participation request to me outlining your software
specs... will consult and revert. Process will be open and transparent
on first-come-first assured basis. (And of course "entrance fee" is
free - all expenses paid:)

Therefore, beg or borrow those laptops (just don't steal:) and make
sure your fine-tuned software is running smoothly, ok? Come and show
off your coding brains and seal sales deals live! What else you could
you ask for?

We're 4 years behind Brazil and have to catch up and really fast....

Let's go them tigers.....