Archives For Symbiotic Media Consortium

First, there was the Facebook paper that sent global media houses into panic mode as the access to their audience and resultant revenue streams came under threat from a company that has hitherto been considered an ally, driving readership through network effects. Locally, the switch from analogue to digital transmission has taken residence in the courts with the three musketeers (who control 87% TV market share and 80% radio audiences) managing to stay on air through a series of court decisions in their favor. The unfortunate prognosis of the events unfolding, paints a picture of a reactive and ill-informed strategy by the stakeholders of the African Digital Network whose take on co-opetition seems to be stalling the migration up and until they all individually get a proper sense of direction in-house. The play by the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation and PANG was clear and it is surprising that the three biggest media houses as measured by both reach and revenue chose to sit in the sidelines almost as if betting on clout to maintain status quo.

As of Monday, 12th January…

A consortium made up of Kenya’s three leading media houses has placed orders to import digital TV set-top boxes that are set to retail for as low as Sh 2,000 each.The Internet-ready set-top boxes are expected to arrive in the country in the next three weeks.The Nation Media Group (NMG), Royal Media Services (RMS) and Standard Group (SG) have placed orders for 150,000 of the devices, which are set to be the cheapest free-to-air digital converters in the market.“These set-top boxes will be quite different from what is already there in the market. The devices will be sold at a one-off price of between Sh2,000 and Sh2,500,” said the NMG board chairman Wilfred Kiboro. The three companies, under the Africa Digital Network (ADN) consortium, also disclosed that a million more of the devices are expected end of March.

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Three days to the much anticipated Saba Saba date (7th July 2014) millions of mobile consumers received a message from the Inter Religious Council of Kenya approved by the Communications Authority. The lash back on social media was expected but in my opinion misdirected as most of the “feedback” was laced with emotion due to the historical and current sensitivities surrounding the date. It does however offer the opportunity to dissect best practice when it comes to the mobile channel with education to consumers, businesses and even government as an imperative. Life is indeed mobile, with the device having become part of our daily lives. For any intrusion into this life to be tolerated; it must be anticipated and approved making consumer onboarding the most important element of any mobile strategy. Continue Reading…

That information technology is the next frontier for many African economies, promising to deliver big development payloads is not lost on anyone who has been reading the opportunity narrative of the Silicon Savannah, Silicon Cape and the various embodiments of the wave. Trying to borrow a playbook from other markets may not work due to the unique challenges that one may face in Africa.

At the close of 2013, I took time off to reflect and strategize on what challenges the marketplace will present for my companies this year. Some, like access to capital are the ever constant companions for any growing enterprise but others I see as coming to the fore as many verticals within the IT sector mature. Whether as a services company doing integrations or pushing own product, this is my take on what many C-level executives will have to deal with to remain competitive and in business over the next 12 months. Continue Reading…

The business of education has many players from the outfitters who kit our children every school term, the book maker who churns out thousands of ruled books for note taking, the schools who offer varied curricular, unions that ensure the rights of our teachers , the education institute that plans out our syllabus to government – who by looking at the many plans fronted in the battle for votes want to make it (the learning bit ) free in its entirety.

The new players in this ecosystem, who combined should change our model of knowledge dissemination are mobile and internet service providers who are often times synonymous, device manufacturers ,mobile application developers and government. Continue Reading…

Reflections with Michael Joseph from Al Kags on Vimeo.

The tariff wars between the mobile operators was bound to have a resounding effect at some point in time, with the day of reckoning coming by way of Safaricom announcement of their half year results that saw a 47.4 percent dip in half year net profit to Ksh 4 billion. Traditional voice and messaging has in the past been majorly peer to peer and served as the cash cow for mobile  network operators. With consumers calling for lower tariffs on both these fronts, mobile network operators are having their work cut out for them, if the plum profits they have enjoyed in the past are to remain constant.

TNS Research International East Africa released a report last year dubbed  – Digital Life 2010  that looked into what Kenyans are doing online. That alongside other research can help in determining where to place effort and financing toward the creation of compelling new services for mobile network operators. What is important though is that this innovation need not come from within the operators but they should look to the growing local developer community.

My growth area forecasts are as follows.

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The past weekend saw a Kenyan  media house air a captivating investigative series covering what was claimed to be the largest drug haul in Kenya, tracing the drama and intrigues from the Netherlands to the shores of the Kenyan coast with names mentioned and all manner of conspiracy theories put forward. The blogosphere and social media sites exploded with conversations around this content and it was interesting to read peoples take on the “expose”.

More than deal with the contents of what was aired, I feel that we can use technology to better enhance the information experience of Kenyans. I choose the term “information experience” because a lot of what we consume is not “news” in the way that we choose to define it, but more of information. Continue Reading…

Everyone is thinking mobile, just as everyone was thinking web a decade ago. Every brand, church, politician, government agency, you name it wants to have a piece of the pie. “I have a very simple idea for a mobile application, it should not take to much of your time or cost much”, sums up an increasing  way of understanding that the market has developed toward development of services on mobile.

Whether delivered via sms, mobile web or mobile application best practice requires that certain steps are followed, call it the application development lifecycle to ensure that the end product meets all requirements from functionality to aesthetics. Continue Reading…

It is always interesting to hear discussions around emerging technologies or industries that seem to capture the minds of everyone; from your barber to the executive at a FMCG company. More often than not, if the discussion is based on mobile technology, a lot of assumptions are made as to who plays what role and where the opportunity lies.

At the very top of the mobile ecosystem is the regulator CCK – Communications Commission of Kenya who are in charge of issuing licenses to mobile network operators, premium rate service providers – PRSP’s and content providers. The different tiers of licensing attract varied fees with the current cost of the PRSP and content provider license standing at Ksh 100,000, on top of an application fee of Ksh.10, 000. The license fee is annual and from year two, it  is based on a percentage of revenue generated by your firm with the lower limit of Ksh.100,000. Continue Reading…

The fact that mobile is big in Africa is undeniable with more people seeking to understand how to  derive maximum value from this channel. What most seek to know is how to generate revenue from the various services that they can offer. To generate revenue, one must have the ability to bill for services and there are various ways of doing this.

Shortcodes are 3-4 digit numbers that are availed by Mobile Network Operators (MNO’s) to Premium Rate Service Providers (PRSP’s) for purposes of setting up services.  At the time of setup, shortcodes are assigned billing bands which range from normal sms rates to premium rates of up to 100 shillings. Shortcodes don’t offer flexible billing and you must choose the best fit for your service. Shortcodes attract a monthly rental fee from the operators and may attract a premium one-off fee if the code is considered “golden”, such as an easy to remember 5544 for example.

Mobile operators usually reserve the use of 3 digit short-codes for network centric services. Continue Reading…

Recognizing that many development companies may not have specialized marketing people or the resources to conduct formal research,Safaricom, Airtel, Orange and Yu can help fill this gap by opening up access to their customer base to encourage co-creation and testing with real end users, free of charge.

That said, developers need to figure out how to make their applications stand out from the crowd. Giving your app away for free doesnt mean a damn thing and won’t hack long term. This is business…at least I want to make some chingching. If there is no emotional or financial bond between your application and the user…then your sunk even if you were to pay guys to use your app :-(

Key to ensuring your app will appeal to consumers is working directly with your intended audience at an early stage. Why waste time and effort if you don’t have an understanding of the following critical questions:

  • Which features will make a difference to people?
  • What is your addressable market?
  • How much are people prepared to pay you for your trouble, if anything?

Whats the point in working on a closet killer application that is not so killer once you go to market coz you essentially build a product for yourself? #sadbuttrue

Maybe a mobile subscriber volunteer initiative that would see developers get access to real world users to test their apps. The feedback would be vital to the creation of sticky mobile utilities.

Vulture capitalists…grrrrrrrr!

All Amber (, a UK based conference company is leading an initiative focusing on the development of the Mobile Web in Africa by organizing a series of conferences on the topic.  The conferences seek to bring together all of the leading stakeholders in the mobile ecosystem to learn, network and share experiences with the aim that the potential of the mobile internet and mobile applications can be truly harnessed.

All Amber events  are innovative and progressive in their nature and utilize the very best venues, with finely tuned agendas and an interactive round-table format which sets them apart from the traditional rows of seats style and contributes to all the attendees enjoying a fantastic ‘on-the-day’ experience and significantly improved outputs and networking.

All Amber’s latest event is Mobile Web East Africa ( which is taking place in Nairobi, Kenya on 3rd & 4th February 2010, is generating a large amount of interest in the region, has already attracted a host of the leading individuals and organizations from around the continent to participate and is being officially hosted by the Kenya ICT Board

After taking Sembuse through the paces and incorporating some of the feedback we have received, we are taking Sembuse to the world stage to compete with the best at the  – Forum Nokia Calling All Innovators contest.

This is our chance as Symbiotic to showcase homegrown talent, creativity and innovation on the world stage, and even (fingers crossed) see Sembuse on millions of Nokia devices around the world.
Forum Nokia, Nokia’s global developer Programme, challenges mobile and web application developers worldwide to submit best-in-class applications for use on Nokia devices.

We are submitting Sembuse under the Emerging Markets and Mobile Necessities category, where developers are to create innovative applications across mobile technology platforms – ranging from SMS through Series 40 and S60 device platforms. All applications will be considered, including those developed using Java, Python, or open source.
These additional areas reflect the desire to identify applications and services which enable Nokia mobile users to be in control of their busy lives and easily manage their frequent interactions with family and friends. At the same time, the applications are not just about personal productivity. Think entertainment and fun, too.
Some examples of the types of applications that the judges will be looking for include:
•    Communications – Innovative applications that span mobile technology platforms – ranging from SMS through Series 40 and S60 device platforms – to improve communications for people in rural and semi-urban areas worldwide.

•    Emerging Markets – This includes applications designed to meet the needs and improve the daily lives of millions of people living in rural and semi-urban areas worldwide. It can include applications for education, health care and more.

•    Entertainment – Applications for social networking; gaming; music and media services to create, edit and share content with friends; recommendations for things to do, such as concerts or movies; or perhaps premium services where individuals can discover and share new ideas and information with one another.

•    Life Balance – Applications that support individuals in their choice to live a healthy life by suggesting ways to improve physical and mental abilities.

•    Personal Information Management – Applications for things like time management, navigation, information search.

•    Personal Security – Applications that provide solutions to you and your family, such as how to get back a lost or stolen device, or an alarm system for your mobile.

•    Social responsibility – Applications that guide individuals to make the right ethical choice and lead a sustainable lifestyle.

And we believe that Sembuse fits the bill on more than one of these fronts. If it were to be decided through a user vote, we are sure we would win the 30,000 $ coz you would all vouch for us, but unfortunately its sheer innovation and talent that will see us through this one :-)
Haya basi…twende kazi