Well weaved data to tell the story of 91 countries, four aspects of old age, policy lapses in less than a thousand words from a 52 pager document Index.
October 15, 2013 — 6:27

By Trudy Mbaluku
Telling stories with data without using technical language is a hard acquired skill. The Telegraphy explores income security, health status and an enabling environment for old people around the world. using several data sets from Global Index Report 2013 it emerges that the happiest place to grow old is Sweden followed by Norway and Germany with Britain trailing at the 13th place. The Worst Afghanistan and Pakistan in the Second last place.

How does the data strengthen the story?
The story, titled happiest country to be old is Sweden, Survey finds out brings out patient issues about social policies, pension schemes, Income Security, health status and an enabling environment in the 91 countries ranked in the report without bombarding the reader with too many figures.

With data analysis the writer shows that despite UK being richer than Germany, ageing Britons are better off spending their later years in Germany than in their country. With data still, it emerged that money or gross Domestic Product per capita isn’t everything when it comes to the wellbeing of the elderly in the G20 economies. For instance Despite Britain’s universal pension and an enabling environment, its ranking was lower to Scandinavia’s due to shortage of buses and trains accessible to the elderly.
Further, HelpAge International who designed the Global Age Index has done a good service to this year’s Age Index by visualizing in different heat maps on a dashboard on their online platform. For the visuals click here

What makes these visualizations effective?
This makes the reader to interacted with the data in a variety of visuals, heat maps, bar graphs, cluster maps and interactive colour scale maps.
Perhaps investigative journalists in kenya can borrow a leaf and turn to data to unearth stories hidden in data.
How can this story be adapted to the?

Aging and retirement planning is vital for Kenya to care for its elderly population. similar data sets could be mined to inform how East Africa compares in taking care of their elderly.


Income Staticstics for Software Developers.
September 23, 2013 — 9:05

A few days ago, while doing my homework for a talk i was scheduled to give at the Hay Festival, I came across the lack of information on how much software developers in the ‘Silicon Savanna’ earn. The survey is available HERE and is still open to responses. I made an assumption that this is monthly income and that it is gross salary.

The raw data from the 19 responses is available HERE and below is an analysis of the responses. Please be sure to leave a comment or fill out the survey if you haven’t already.

Income According to level of education:


According to developer’s major in school:

% responses according to major in school:

Linked Data.
August 28, 2013 — 9:43

“You can’t connect the dots looking forward you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.” – Steve jobs

The one thing we have truly missed on in government and organizations is the ability to really work together. For various departments or government ministries to be able to create structures that can seamlessly interlink with others, in the future, without much red tape or structural difficulties.

Linked data is just that. Linked data. This concept allows for structured data concepts to be interrelated and used with little or no barriers.

A simple example like a ministry of health accessing information from the ministry of education to know how many kids there are in schools, linking the ministry of information to know what the best way for a communication campaign is to let parents and schools know that there is going to be an immunization campaign is a classic example of how having good information that can be connected can go a long way. But then again, this a very simple example but one that might surprisingly not be a true implementation due to organizational barriers.

A great real case problem was when the Kenya Power and Lighting company had great issues with the ministry of roads as they had not shared with them or at least did not have information in more accessible formats and maybe were not able to work together to know the road expansion plans. This ended up affecting KPLC who had already installed electricity poles on roads that were later marked for expansion and the internet providing companies that had piggy backed on electricity poles for their cable distribution. As a development hazard, some citizens ended up with no electricity, no internet and very dusty roads. Now what if these stakeholders had implemented dots that could connect backwards?

My recommendations to achieve linked data:

Standardization of services.

Common data formats  for collection and distribution.

Joint Committees that involve all the possible involved stakeholders and allowance for new entrants.

Bigger picture for development and data. It is not just about your organization.

Accessibility – now it doesn’t make sense to implement all of the above if the data involved is not accessible to anyone.

There definitely are more ways to achieve this goal without the need for any constitutional changes. There needs to be a culture change that allows people to think out of their organizations during project implementation, data collection and distribution.

Entrepreneur Data Intelligence
July 19, 2013 — 6:53

“My people perish from a lack of knowledge” ~ Hosea 4:6

Today, Hosea would be disappointed that people have knowledge but lack the ability to use it.

There is talk all over the world about the next frontier in technology and business. Big data. Big companies in the west have started to sign up clients that have data, helping them analyze the data, use it for predictive modeling and productivity.

Governments have not been left behind. With the rise of the Open Data movement around the world, there are great expectations for improved decision making within government, and as a ripple effect, affecting how private sector interacts with government and does business.

This is all already happening, in the west.

With this rise of using data, Data Science is becoming inevitable. We have seen an emergence in data scientists, by training or experience but it’s all not really hard to figure out. A little dedication to the subject goes a long way.

In Africa, data has been defined as the new oil! Data is becoming such a valuable crude resource. The good news is that everyone is a potential stakeholder. In fact, everyone has something to bring to the table. The better news is, most of this valuable resource is available, for free. It might not be within the bounds of ‘big data’ but I am sure even the existing ‘small data’ can truly be transformational.

We are seeing initiatives like the Kenya Open Data Initiative (KODI), the Africa Development Bank data site and many other initiatives through the World Bank and other key industry players that are releasing data with major indicators of where to do business, what market segments to target, what products to work on, what the growth rates are etc. Putting information like this together can easily draw a picture of the expected profits. It might not be very obvious, identifying trends within data takes a lot of intelligence and creativity but it can be done.

Growth of entrepreneurship around the world and with a massive exodus of international entrepreneurs to Africa, the new competitive edge for an industry player is the quality of data that runs their business, whether from internal or external sources. The best move for a lot of the starters would be to invest in people who are dedicated to gathering this information and using it to carry out business intelligence. People or an algorithm is a good question. What should be invested in? Remember, an algorithm without a clear mind that feeds it key indicators might give the correct answer but not necessarily the right one. The people are key!

Demographic data gives deeper understanding to information on populations and can easily be harnessed to help entrepreneurs understand their market or what products would be best suited for them to invest in.

The unfortunate bit is that we have our entrepreneurs focusing on producing products or giving services without as much as a little research into the subject matter to find out if the time and money investments they are undertaking are suited for the markets they are targeting. Some do not do any form of literature review or customer analysis to see if any of their proposed solution would work within the existing environment or with existing technologies.

The reason Hosea would be more disappointed is the fact that this information exists in some form out in the web and in reports but local entrepreneurs have not made it any of their work to use it.

This post is not at all to say that all the information needed to elevate startups exists and that they are just being lazy. Or to be oblivious of the fact that some entrepreneurs are already using data to make their businesses better. In fact, that is very far from the truth. Some of the information that is necessary to help steer things is either outdated or non-existent all together. Some information on donor funding, profit margins, growth trajectories etc. that can be very vital in informing businesses might either be considered confidential or might also not exist. Some entrepreneurs have already seen the value of using data within businesses and are already out investing in this to help their businesses grow.

My recommendation moving forward is for entrepreneurs to not only use data in their day to day decision making but for them to also develop a culture of data sharing, at acceptable levels to allow others benefit and build their businesses.

This post was a guest editorial for iHub Research for their quarterly edition. Please visit
http://www.ihub.co.ke/blog/ for more.

Kenya at 49
June 1, 2013 — 13:13

The following infographic shows the change of operations/ prices/ expenditure/ population etc in Kenya since independence in 1963 to 2012.

The raw information to this infographic is available HERE this information was extracted from a Daily Nation newspaper in June 2012.

Why the Freedom of Information laws are so lacking …
May 28, 2013 — 0:49

Last year, as the project coordinator for the Kenya Open Data Initiative I had the opportunity to among many other things, sit in a room of legislators, deliberating through the two proposed bills that would make access to information much easier – Freedom of Information and the Data Protection bills.

After a full day, I was more convinced that I should have gone to law school! This was exciting. The arguments. What was not so exciting though was how many loopholes there were in the proposed bills that were supposed to make access of information by citizens easier. The hard part was how the lawyers in the room did not see the downfalls of some of these loopholes. Unfortunately I was the only “non-lawyer” in the room and most of my suggestions were not welcome. Most of my “from a technical point of view” suggestions.

As a result, the Kenya ICT Board and Development Initiatives gathered a group of industry players from civil society, private & public sectors to discuss the proposed laws and the report below was compiled by the team from Development initiatives with great input from Martin Oloo, a Nairobi based legal expert who highlighted the omissions in the current provisions.

A blog on that day’s event is also available.

This report was forwarded to the Commission for the Implementation of the Constitution who promised to consider these inputs in the drafting of the final bill before presenting it to parliament.

Why Agriculture is no longer SEXY!
April 23, 2013 — 2:58

They say if you want your child to be bi-lingual, teach them a new language when they are still very young.

What most Kenyans don’t realize is a majority of them can speak three languages fluently, something that is not very common in the world…

I was just reading Dr. Ndemo’s blog post on ‘Why subsistence farming is the cause of all our trouble‘ and I am sure like myself, many of you have heard the talk around town about the average age of a farmer in Kenya being about 55 years.

For a long time, there have been discussions about why agriculture is not as sexy and why a lot of youth are not venturing into what would eventually fulfill vision2030′s economic pillar of Agriculture. Journalists are asking, leaders are asking, citizens are asking, WHY ISN’T AGRICULTURE SEXY FOR THE YOUTH?

The answer to this question is very simple and I am really surprised that maybe a lot of people, especially the policy makers cannot see this. AGRICULTURAL EDUCATION.

When I was in primary school, we used to study Agriculture as a mandatory subject all the way from class 1 to 8. We had small little gardens at the back of our classes and in my primary school (Nyamira DEB primary school) we had a bigger garden where senior students would plant some crops that at one closing day, all students in the school got two cobs of maize, some tomatoes and onions to take home. This not only helped the students learn how to take care of plantations but also taught them the importance of large scale farming and they could see hands on how land subdivision (that mostly leads to subsistence farming and land wastage) would affect crop production.

When I was in class 7, the government did away with a lot of subjects in the curriculum and sadly, including Agriculture. The government was determined to raise a whole generation of people who had no idea what Agriculture is about and in return, you have people who do not appreciate the importance of producing your own crops especially in this era of canned, processed and imported food. The impact of this move by the government meant that the only time kids had a chance to interact with farming/agricultural experience was for the lucky ones like me whose parents were farmers (or who grew up in the village :-) ).

In secondary school, people did not choose the Agriculture option for the main reason that the career path was not clear especially since the government had done away with it in primary school and that it was messy. We did not appreciate where food came from. For the few (Maybe 10 in my entire form of about 400 students) who chose the subject, they did it because it was an easy ‘A’.

I read an article (cant seem to find it) about how Agriculture students in university are now leaning towards technology and building applications that include virtual farming and fruits without any actual implementation of the things they learn. In university now, the focus is on computer literacy and none on agricultural literacy.

Naivasha is famous for its flower farms that make Kenya one of the leading producer of flowers that are exported to the world. I have taken a tour in a few of the farms and i can promise you that they do not lie on hundreds of acres of lands. The greenhouses are pretty small but with good understanding and management, they are able to produce so much.

A lot of land that can potentially be used for large scale farming is now being subdivided and sold in 1/4 acres to the growing middle class. There came a hype of every ‘middle class’ person that had just bought land starting a green house for onions and tomatoes but that all got killed with the booming real estate move. People are not farming anymore, they are growing concrete on what could be crop farms. There is no regulation to building vs. farming lands.

We have a generation of people who have no understanding of what agriculture is, how food is produced and why it is important. This, to me, becomes like the question children like to innocently ask, “where do babies come from?” Soon enough you will hear something like “you guy, where does food come from?”

Large agricultural producers in the world like America, China, Brazil, Nigeria etc. teach Agriculture in their equivalent of primary school and need i stress again that these are leading producers?

In my opinion, for as long as we continue to ignore that educating children at a young age about agriculture and agricultural processes and sustainable food production methods, all we will end up with will be sexy applications with virtual fruits and messy food production that only the old people want to get into.

Agriculture is a science, that is a quick win to benefit all of us for a more sustainable future but the education system has decided to focus on the science of building rockets that can only take a few people to the moon and the future invasion of mars.

Dirt is good, no?


Dear Mr. President. Not laptops. Not yet..
April 20, 2013 — 18:01

Someone will argue that I should be the last person writing against this new craze of the laptop policy proposed by president Kenyatta but hey, why not?

I am sure that a lot of thought has gone into considering the dynamics around this idea but just in case there hasn’t, here are my few ideas as to why the laptop policy might be a good but misplaced idea for now.
A couple of years ago, I ran a campaign for donating laptops to primary school children so yes, i have a pretty clear experience of how this does or does not work. Books2Schools.org was the initiative and for me, this was more of a volunteer idea not to raise any money but to ‘raise’ laptops and PCs for young kids. And the awareness of technology. The 1st deployment was very successful, I did this in my dad’s private school out in my village in Nyamira county and this yielded many positive results for him apart from the fact that he is now harboring the real bread of digital natives.

Given the success of the 1st venture, I had a supply of more computers from well wishers to deploy to two more schools in other regions in the country. I had a more rural focus. This is when I was faced by some of the challenges that people go through, what others would call, their bread and butter issues.

1. Electricity supply.

Most of the schools i approached openly told me that they could not afford electricity supply for the computer classes and that if i wanted to install the computers, i also had to pay for the energy supply to run them. Most other schools did not have any electricity at all.

2. Trainers.

Despite the great emergence up of computer training colleges in smaller towns, it is very difficult to find someone who is willing or has experience with teaching computer lessons for children using relevant content, programs and tools. The other day my friend Sandra and I attended a coding jam for kids in DC (coder dojo) where young children are taught how to develop computer games as a way of learning content creation and development. While I do not want to start comparing the American system to the Kenyan one, there is still great emphasis that needs to be placed at a higher level of training before 7 year olds can be given access to computers at such a short time span.

3. The curriculum

For a long time, i have had great issues with the Kenyan public schools education curriculum as is. The fact that great subjects like music, agriculture, arts were done away with at primary school is not only a clear indication of misplaced priorities but also on opportunities we are missing out on and the history that we are eroding. Does your child know what nyatiti or ekonu is? Giving kids laptops might be a fancy thing to do but not the necessary thing.

4. Build more LIBRARIES

At that level, I would propose more on spending the investment to build computer labs and LIBRARIES in each school. How can we expose our children to computers when they clearly cannot even read? (I was a teacher at age 17 (not too long ago) in a primary school and I saw all these challenges). We’ve got to start with the basics. In my dad’s school, we build both a computer lab and a library. The different classes alternate in accessing these facilities and this way everyone gets a chance to not only learn how to read but also implementing the knowledge.

There used to be district libraries when I was growing up (even in the village) but on my last visit to these facilities, they no longer exist! Children need a foundation of book reading before they can be exposed to technology. They have to have a clear understanding of what they are doing and not doing it for the hype of it.

My proposal

I would propose strongly three things:

-Build computer labs in all high schools and make computer studies a mandatory subject for all form 1 and 2 and an elective at forms 3 &4 just like home science

-At primary school level, build libraries with real books that all children can have access to. This will build not only the capabilities of the children’s content consumption but creation. This also levels the ground for those with or without electricity. If there is more money left over, instead of one computer per child, build computer labs with 100 computers per school. Of cause depending on ratios.

-At primary school, have the curriculum focus more on other areas of study not just on science as it is right now. Very expensive schools (including international schools where most of the politician’s children go) focus on arts and music as much as they do on literature and science. The poorer children are only exposed to sciences that they might not only not have the right resources to study for it but also lack the infrastructure to implement it. This is not good for our economy, we shall never grow if only a few people can effectively contribute to nation building. The future of our country  is defined by vision 2030 and there is a pillar that we should be able to feed ourselves in the future. But how can we feed ourselves if agriculture as an idea is not given the importance that it should at a very young age?

Technology is important, no doubt (I am one of its greatest beneficiaries), but there are many more indicators that we need to take into consideration for a better and greater future.

Open Data – How Kenya Did It
April 15, 2013 — 19:10

None is more equal than a Kenyan
April 14, 2013 — 17:54

Photo Credit @theMumbi


There are many ways to start a blog and today I find out if this is one of those ways. I guess I have seen what I am about to talk about without much notice as to the kind of way I looked at it in my past few days in Nairobi after a week long business trip. This is all supported by data collected over years.

These are lessons contributed to by a few of my hops around the world, meeting and observing people from around the world and trying to compare this to Kenya/Kenyans.



For years we have been complaining about why the traffic cops don’t let the traffic lights play their role. Causing too much traffic, inconvenience and all. Cops have started to be more equal to traffic lights, they are the ultimate source of guidance on the roads and we know how that can be. At times it goes very well. A few times I have complained about why pedestrians never use the traffic lights to guide their movements on the road or use the designated zebra crossing areas, well, my guess is, the pedestrian is slowly starting to become equal to the motorist. A friend once told me while abroad where we very carefully followed all the traffic rules and I had mentioned that when I got back home I was going to do the same because otherwise this was pretense and she said, “back home, if you try to follow traffic rules, you will be killed in minutes. You have to learn to compete with the cars.”

It is really annoying to be driving right behind someone walking and talking on the phone on the main street and still get the look that you, the driver, should be a little more considerate. You both share and enjoy the right to use the roads after all!

For a long time, women did not drive cars; leave alone the bigger cars that you see on the roads now driven by women and the smaller ones driven by men. Kenya has been able to catch up on the equality of allowing women to make their own decisions on the kinds of cars they buy and drive. The middle class is after all rising and unlike other countries like Saudi Arabia that have banned women from driving cars, I don’t think Kenya has ever had any restrictions. We are seeing an increasing number of women joining motocross and safari rally teams and favorably competing.


Although the outcome of the just concluded March 4th 2013 Kenya General Elections is nothing to go by, we have seen women and more young people actively involved in politics and decision making. The incoming groups of representatives and the constitution have ensured that affirmative action is upheld and that there is equal representation on the table in terms of gender. Although the constitution does not explicitly favor people of a certain age, Kenyans have ensured that the incoming government is filled with young folks, not just in terms of the experience but age as well. Looking at it seriously, this has ensured that the people sitting at the table represent three important groups; Male, Female and Youths.

It is just up to a few years ago that women were allowed to vote! Well you might think that this is unique to Kenya while in fact, most western countries had laws that banned women from voting. Now our women can not only vote but also rise to ask for leadership positions. Now we have all heard of counties where women are killed for asking for leadership positions.


I am not talking about twitter, facebook and all the fancies… but lets talk about that too. Looking at how people in Kenya are being socialized now, there is more representation of everyone. On social media, there are just as many women as there are men; many young people as there are old.

Access to infrastructure and social structures is well distributed to the poor as it is distributed to the rich. One gets to enjoy the same music at Njugunas as they would at K1 as they would at Brew Bistro as they would at Karumaindo. Location, location, location. We get to enjoy the same beer (taste, quantity, quality) no matter where they are in the country, it is just a matter of how much you are willing to pay.

Java, Art cafe and Dormans are no longer for the expatriates; Nakumatt has been rated as one of the cheaper supermarkets, Mr. price is no longer for the classy, blankets and wine is slowly starting to whiteness a new kind of crowd compared to the time they opened shop. The diversity gap is fast closing with its graph is fast rising and becoming steeper. A CEO of a top company gets to enjoy the same kind of entertainment and mingle his/her intern enjoys all at own cost, gender and age not withstanding


Perhaps this is the one topic I am too passionate about. Too often, you have to make your way across a crowd or into the lift, bus, car etc. In many other places, women and children are given the priority to go first with people/men as much as giving them a little more space to do so. “Here miss, after you.” Now, when was the last time you heard that? It is survival for the fittest. Words like excuse me, I am sorry, pardon me have remained for a long time exactly where we heard them, in an English class somewhere in primary school!

We have come past the age of a man pulling your chair, paying your bills after a meal on a date, opening your door. In fact, I don’t think we ever got to that age at all. Division of labor in Kenya is at 50/50. Its give and take, really!

You get the picture; I don’t want to paint it any worse. After all, women did ask for equality right? Well looks like the delivery is well in full measure.


If the next few words don’t align with what you think, keep on reading anyway. I liked Charles Onyango Obbo’s article on Men’s Shits and Women in politics. In of his most interesting ways of articulating this argument, he spoke about men’s shirts that used to have pockets where there was always a pen hanging from it and how “The pen was the ultimate symbol of male power and badge of gender inequality.” Now, men don’t wear pocketed shirts.

What happened to the men, who wore suits and ties and cut their own nails, did their own shoes. Men with a clean cut on their heads (or ok, locks or an afro are allowed) with designated barber shops where they only discussed men discussions.

I am constantly under the pressure of getting my nails manicured especially when attending boardroom meetings because all you see from side to side are shiny nails of men discussing business. Worse is when I have to queue in line to get my nails done, after a man. Now, you can call me traditional, or backwards but I guess it’s a matter of taste; whatever happened to the ruggedly handsome men of my father’s generation? Oh wait, that is right, of my father’s generation.

This is no attack; women have also declined their responsibility of looking good. Yes, I tend to think that someone charged us with that responsibility. Well I guess it’s the plight of multitasking and having too much to do but well I believe we can get the same kind of manicure (maybe a little less) for a cheaper price.

At times I get mixed feelings when I see a man’s eyebrows well done but then I guess, someone has to take one for the team!

Don’t get me wrong; I have no objection for men looking good, in fact I am a big advocate. We all now wear skinny jeans and floral pants. We have equal opportunities in changing our child’s diaper and walking the dog. Hell we now drive the same cars.

Toi Market is not just for the poor but for the rich too. If you have gone down there you also realize that its also a heaven for the expatriates and foreigners. Men and Women alike. You have often people say that “I dont want to be seen wearing the same clothes as someone else hence my choice for second hand clothes.” And as the prices at Toi keep increasing, now this has made its legitimacy even stronger. This is the real deal.

Are you ready for the journey towards equality?