Not a BAR nor a CAMP!

This past weekend was dominated by all things beer with the Tusker Safari Sevens and Tusker Project Fame finals happening on the same weekend, I wonder how the Tusker big brass were able to divide themselves between the two events happening on opposite sides of town. Despite the obvious temptation especially on the former I ended up in a different type of Bar which was not a Bar. With a nudge from a techie guru whom I know and  also happens to work with skunks I found myself spending the better part of Saturday at Barcamp. Despite my initial misgivings about what I presumed would be a very techie affair with acronyms and abbreviations being thrown left right and centre I ended up learning alot and having a good time to boot.

Alot of posts (More than 10 at last count) have been writen up about the content of Barcamp Nairobi including pictures where I have spotted my smug mugshot in the crowd! so I won’t attempt to try and go into the content of the presentations cos they have been covered my more worthy campers. Instead I will just state what I liked about it and what little more I would like to see added.

What I liked.

  • Democracy, people got to choose what topics would be included and because the sessions were going on concurently in 3 rooms you had a choice of which particular session to attend this was a true reflection of ‘people driven process
  • Participation, was not only expected and encouraged it was demanded, it was not just about a speaker talking for half an hour while we were watching the clock in fact most of the times I got a feeling that the sessions were ending too fast.
  • Networking, I was able to make the aquintance of several bloggers and persons in the blog and IT community who despite being ‘famous’ were all approachable and willing to engage all and sundry.
  • Ubuntu, not the software (although I noted that many of the poeple attending are big fans of FOSS) but the spirit of humanity where people were genuinely willing to be helpful, this puts a human face rather than the obnoxious geek image that people have of the techies.
  • Variety, It was not just about computer systems and develpment of software there was diversity in topics from setting up Ubuntu servers, rural lighting to Iphones and Blogging tips so I didn’t feel left out although quite a number of the topics were above me I could still find enoug sessions to occupy me all day.
  • Unconference, this terminology intrigued me and I wanted to know what it was all about but as the day wore on it impressed me, the informal nature of going about things, the lack of moderators, the diversity, the lighning sessions (I didn’t think it would ever be possible to keep a public speaker in kenya to a presentation of only 5 minutes!) and the lack of the usual evaluation forms at the end of the seminar. there was not even a guest of honour although the PS for information turned up he particpated and contributed like any other camper.
  • Mixed Grill,- not the food (there was none but I don’t think anybody missed it) All sorts of people turned up from IT specialists, Bloggers, Civil Society, Enterpreneurs, Students and even government policy makers and all mixing and participating as equals and wanting to share something.
  • HotSpot, thanks to Wananchi for some of us it was our first time to experience really fast, Unrestricted internet (really had to restrain myself from abusing the connection to do hefty downloads) connections and as the presentations went on we were able to google all the interesting facts that came up and I have a nice big BarcampNariobi bookmark folder full of juicy links to nibble over slowly with time.

Oportunities for Improvement

  • Space, I guess even the organizers did not bargain for such a big attendance especially on a cold July Saturday but the 3 rooms for most of the sessions were full to capacity, I can bet that next time due to the favourable reviews I have read so far they can expect even more people
  • Timing, ok this is personal! I really really really missed the rugby so next time tafadhali consult the KRFU calendar.
  • Publicity, the whole thing needs to be demystified so that we can have more people coming in especially as presenters cos alot of times people get intimidated by technology and think that it is only for experts.
  • Beer, si it’s a Bar ama? 🙂

so to the organizers of Barcamp this is my unofficial conference evaluation form in case you forgot!

Compe-Time and I’m loving it!

Its a great time for the consumer when all the big companies are fighting for your attention (and a little bit of your money). Just such a situation is playing itself out in the business circles in Kenya where some previously unassailable corporate giants are being challenged. Of course for us consumers we can just smile and expect more choice and hopefully better deals as the big boys go to war.

Safaricom vs Celtel

Safaricom is the undisputed big boy in Kenya’s corporate scene enjoying massive profits and totally dominating the mobile phone scene however their composure seems to have been ruffled by their smaller competitor Celtel who have shed their rather elitist image and are now engaging in an all out war for the low end of the market with their new 3 shillings off peak off. Safaricom quickly responded by lowering their rates to 10 bob and launching the ill fated free calls between 9pm and 6am promotion. Very predictably the usually congested Safaricom network went into almost immediate meltdown with congestion once the offere started forcing them to revise the timings. Overall Celtel has superior call clarity, stable data conectivity and customer service call centre that is actually reachable and I think it will benefit by clinching those customers that value quality and reliability, however I still think Safaricom will retain its share of the mass market esp  due to M-Pesa which is for sure the key products that will make people stick there, but I hope they will now learn to be more responsive to customers demands rather than using its bigger numbers to lock in the customers its so easy to acquire another line. As for myself I remain unashamedly polygamous and I use both networks depending on what I am currently doing and should the other players come in soon I will welcome them with open arms, I find it funny when people argue about which network is better I have no loyalty whatsoever, what I pray for is that CCK will effect number portability so that I can migrate to any new network and retain my number (this will sort out those friends of mine on Safcom who swear they can’t call me on Celtel since they won’t know what network I’m using since the prefix will be meaningless)

EABL vs Coca Cola

Coca Cola have enjoyed a near monopoly in the soft drinks market in Kenya having ruthlessly dispensed of any upcoming competition such as Softa and Schweppes but now they have a battle on their hands with the brewing giants very loud entry into their niche with Alvaro which seems to have even exceeded their expectations. Coke countered by entering the Energy drinks market currently dominated by the EABL distributed Red Bull by launching Burn with a lot of flare. I will be keenly following this war and seeing how it will improve the situation at my local. I only wish someone else would come and offer some compe to EABL who are virtually a monopoly in the beer market I remember with fondness the Tusker vs Castle battle in the 90’s and the fact that beer prices did not go up for 5 years. Now I hear rumours that Breweries might also venture into the bottled water market quite an irony!

DSTV vs GTV

For over a decade DSTV has been the only provider of Satellite TV in Kenya and could literally dicatate what to charge to add to the ridiculously high cost of buying the equipment it is amazing how the cost of connection to Satellite TV could have dropped from 60,000 shillings only 2 years ago to now just over 5,000 shillings. The major cause has been the entry of a new provider GTV which announced its entry into the market by clinching the rights to 80% of the English Premier League which is immensly popular in Kenya. DSTV responded by offering cheaper bouquets and lowering the cost of equipment. In total I think DSTV still holds the edge i terms of the number and quality of Channels they have to offer but I see GTV catching up very soon. The competiton has also had an unexpected boost for local soccer as the 2 companies compete for rights to cover local tournaments currently DSTV’s Supersport has rights to the Kenya Premier Leagues while GTV has rights for the regional CECAFA tournament the net acheivement is that there will be more funds available for the various clubs and national teams from the sale of the rights which if used properly will herald teh development of a proper proffesional football scene locally and will stop this nonsense of people expecting the government to bail out local soccer federations with our tax money.

So if there is more competion out there in the offing, I say “Bring Them On!”