Archive for June, 2011


June 17, 2011

Wireless internet connection via Safaricom, Kenya’s leading mobile network operator ( Internet connectivity in Kenya is quite reliable though a bit slow in the villages. 



June 17, 2011
Blogging from the village (May – June  2011) as I catch up with world news from the small radio up on the tree! (The radio has short wave Bands through which i could access BBC, Voice of America, several French channels, among other international channels). Read my village diary posts on this blog…

School principal

June 17, 2011

Mutwii primary school deputy principal responds to an emergency call from a parent of one of the students (Read blog post here:

My village diary 12 – “He called the school principal to inform a student that her mother was suddenly ill”

June 7, 2011

Cellphones communication in a remote village in south eastern Kenya-12

  1. As I was meeting with teachers and students at my former school, a father of one of the students called the school principal to let him know that his wife was suddenly ill. He requested the principal to inform the daughter and allow her to leave school immediately to take care of her siblings while he took the mother to the hospital.
  2. Earlier, when I arrived at the school, the principal was meeting with a mother of one of the students to discuss his disciplinary concerns. She had booked the appointment via cellphone.
  3. As I was meeting with the teachers, the chair of the school parents association called the principal to inform him that he was unable to attend the meeting due to a family emergency. He shared his opinion about the school project over the phone.
  4. Another parent called the school principal to book an appointment to discuss the poor performance of her son.

After the meeting I interviewed some of the teachers about cellphones communication. I will blog about it later….

My village diary 11 – Motivational video project for students

June 7, 2011

I met with teachers and students of my former primary school yesterday to discuss the school development projects. In particular, we discussed a new students motivation project in which former students will be profiled via video, sharing the challenges and struggles they faced during their school lives  and success stories about their careers. The idea is to advise the students and motivate them to work hard for success in  their future careers.










Demonstrating the school motivational project via netbook

Simple and most affordable technology will be used to implement the project. The technical equipment required for the project include:

  •  A flip camera
  • A netbook
  • Solar panel and battery
  • A projector
  • A white piece of cloth or white-painted wall for screening the videos

The school already has a small solar battery. Former students will be requested help purchase a bigger panel and a battery estimated to cost 35,000 shillings (85 shillings=1 Canadian dollar).

I offered to donate the netbook and the flip camera (about 500 dollars). I will also request a friend or former student to donate the projector. Another friend has already volunteered to shoot the videos and to train one of the unemployed former students to manage the screenings. The school principal will compile the data/contact list of  former students and arrange for the interviews, via cellphone….

The school deputy principal points at solar panels on the roof used to operate a radio for the students to listen to school broadcasts.

My village diary 10: “My sister wired cash via cellphone”

June 5, 2011

Cellphones communication in a remote village in south eastern Kenya – 10

1. I ran out of cash yesterday after purchasing chickens!!! I called my sister in Nairobi and asked her to change some Canadian dollars and wire the cash to me. She changed the money at a forex bureau , walked to a Safaricom dealer nearby, wired the money to my father’s cellphone, at a fee of 50 shillings . Within seconds, he received an SMS from the company informing him that the money had been wired. He then walked to the Safaricom dealer at the market to collect the money. The entire transaction took a few minutes and cost less than a dollar. M-Pesa, Safaricom’s money transfer and banking system is phenomenal here in Kenya. It is most convenient, effective and affordable.  Read more about M-Pesa on pritamkabe blog.

(Image source: pritamkabe)
2. My brother told me the other day that he has linked his bank account to his cellphone. He can withdraw money from his account, using the cellphone, at any M-Pesa dealer,   anywhere in the country. I wondered what if he looses the phone. He said, no one can withdraw the  money since he is the only one who knows the Pin code!  I am still not convinced, I will further reserach on this and blog about it later…

3. While in Toronto, I wire money to my sister in Nairobi via money gram (quite affordable). She then wires it to my father in the village at a fee of 50 shillings no matter how much the amount. It is instantaneous!

It costs one bob to call

4. After my meeting with Susana last night, she called my cellphone to let us know she had arrived well. I missed the call, she then called my father who also missed her call. He later saw the missed call and called her back. Here is how the conversation went (in my local language):

Dad: hello, niwavika nesa (you arrived well?)
Susana: ii (yes)
Dad: Aaya, koma nesa (ok, sleep well)
Susana: Asanta (Thank you)
The conversation lasted less than a minute (8 words). I asked my father how much he was gonna pay for the call, he said one shilling! It is amazing how cheap communication via cellphones is in this part of the world…

My village diary – 9: Negotiating chicken prices via cellphone

June 4, 2011

Cellphones communication in a remote village in south eastern Kenya-9

  1. The kuku man (chicken dealer) came over today to sell me chickens for my father’s poultry project.  As I was negotiating for the prices, two other customers called him on his cellphone to order more chickens, and for a better deal. It was tough negotiating for good prices since he had just been offered a better deal, via cellphone!
  2. I met up this Susana (the village development coordinator) this evening to discuss various projects in the village.  She had just come back from a three day seminar on HIV-AIDS.

During the two hours meeting, she received nine phone calls some related to the various projects she coordinates.

  • One of them was from a project member who wanted to meet up with her to brief him about the seminar she had just attended.
  •  Another call was from the teacher of a kindergarten she helped set up in the village. She informed her that the kindergarten will be cleaned tomorrow, ahead of a meeting scheduled for next week.
  • A member of another school project called her to findout about plans for a meeting with partners from Cleveland who will be visiting the project mid-June.
  • Her daughter also called her to find out how she was going to respond to an email sent by the Cleveland project partners.
  • Another call was from her son, wanting to know what he was going to cook for dinner.
  • Two other calls were from her bodaboda taxi operator – asking her what time he was going to pick her up and later informing her that he was on the way to pick her up.

I informed her that I was doing a small research on cellphone communication in the village. She agreed to an interview next Tuesday…

My village diary – 8: “The priest’s car broke down, he called me to go rescue him”

June 3, 2011

June 3, 2011

Cellphone communication in a remote village in south eastern Kenya – 8

1. Last sunday there was a special mass celebration at the parish. One of my neighbors, a priest, had come back to the village to attend the ceremony. His car wouldn’t start. other priests and the congregation were waiting for him in the church. He called my father to drive over to help restart his car battery. Now I know why the mass was 1 h0ur and 42 minutes late!

2. When my brother comes back to the village, from Nairobi, late on weekends, he calls bodaboda operator to pick him up at the market and drop him home (bodaboda is slang for local taxis-motorbikes)

3. last night my father called my brother-in-law in south Africa, just to say hello. It costs 3 shillings per minute. Its costs the same to call canada and USA.

4. The parish secretary called my father yesterday to inform him that the priest has called for a leaders meeting in two weeks. He wanted to meet up to plan for the meeting.

5. My friend susana, ( the village development coordinator) called me last night, to remind me that we have a community meeting tomorrow to discuss the village water project.

My village diary – 7: MP proposes ban on local languages

June 3, 2011

June 3, 2011

Yesterday in parliament a MP proposed ban of all local ethnic languages in Kenya’s public offices. He argued that such languages fuel ethnicity (tribalism), a chronic problem that has existed in the country for many years. There are over 40 ethic languages spoken in the country. English and swahili are the official and national languages.

Am not sure what to think of this proposal, probably he has a point, I’ll be keen to follow the debate…

My Village diary-6: I called my sister to reload my internet connection

June 2, 2011

June 2, 2011

Cellphones communication in a remote village in south eastern Kenya -6

Last night I ran out of “credit” for internet connection. The shops here in the village were already closed.  I called my sister in Nairobi and asked her to sambasa (slang for share) some of her credit  to my cellphone. Within minutes I received a text message from the cellphone service provider – safaricom-informing me that I had received credit worth 250 shillings. I then text the word “activate” to 442. I received another text message informing me that I had purchased 80 megabites of internet connection. (250 shillings is worth 40 megabites. But the company is currently promoting special offers – double the no. of megabites purchased.)

The entire transaction lasted less than ten minutes, via cellphone. I was back on the net, checked emails and blogged about “my village diary”….

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