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Data to Information – The missing piece.

Not all potential data users have the ability to understand what data means. There needs to be an interpretation mechanism that turns data into information that is more relevant and applicable to the every day user, within their context and ability.

No Intermediaries:

When Citizens are left with the responsibility of understanding data that is released and made available to them in its raw format, the most common reaction is to repel the data. If they cannot relate to the data as is, they will have no interest in demanding for more or using the existing data.


With intermediaries:

In a more informed society, there should exist mediators who take the role of interpreting data into information that is more relevant to the citizens.

The media and civil society are the best-suited groups for this role.


Falling Oil Prices: What it Means for Kenya

For the 4-year period between From 2010 until mid-2014, world crude oil prices have been static at around $110 per barrel but that quickly changed over the last 7 months from $107 per barrel in June 2014 to less than $70 in January 2015 – a 44% drop!

That astonishing statistic immediately leads to 2 questions: Why the fall? And; What are the ramifications for Kenya?


I find it impossible to attribute this decline to one thing but the following factors may have played a fairly significant role in this:

1. Increase in supply

There has been an increase in oil production, especially in the US. While America may not be an exporter, it is the world’s largest importer of oil. Increase in production in the US effectively means less importation by the biggest player and therefore more oil available in the global market.

2. Geo-political reasons

Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, OPEC, is charged with the stabilization of prices in international oil markets. Saudia Arabia, though, among the world’s largest producers with close to 10 million barrels a day which translates to a third of the OPEC total, has refused to take any action to help stop the price fall such as say cutting down on production.

A possible connivance with the US to economically clip oil-dependent adversaries like Russia (where the Rouble is languishing in record lows), Venezuela and Iran, maybe?

3. Reduced demand

It looks like environmental conservation campaigns are starting to yield rewards with more switching to alternative energy.

This, alongside the gradual improvement in production efficiency by organizations over time and a sluggish world economy which is consuming less oil in total, are slowly reducing the overall demand for oil.


1. Food security

Oil prices are co-related to food prices. Higher oil prices make agricultural production expensive leading to higher food prices, therefore this fall may be a good thing in that it enhances food security not just in Kenya but globally.

2. Transport

Lower oil prices will make driving less expensive with Kenya’s Energy Regulatory Commission, ERC, already announcing considerable pump price deductions. This will mean more vehicles on the already strained Kenyan roads and a subsequent rise in average time taken for commuting, especially within the 4-million-crowded Nairobi.

3. Kenya as an oil importer

According to Fitch Ratings, this plunge in oil prices could boost Sub-Saharan Africa’s growth to 5 percent in 2015 from 4.5 percent in 2014 since most of SSA countries — Kenya included — are oil importers rather than exporters. Compared to an exporter like Nigeria whose falling stock market index that has gone down 24% since the fall begun, Kenya’s stocks have surged by 9.4%.

4. Kenya as future oil exporter

Although an oil-importing country at the moment, and as such gaining from current fall in oil prices, Kenya is set to become an oil-exporting country in the near future as a result of recent oil exploration projects. Falling oil prices may reduce the expected profitability of investments in the oil sector and should effectively serve as a deterrent against having an economy heavily dependent on oil.


Was 2014 Really That Dangerous for Air Travel?

When doing a year review of 2014, the biggest headlines over the year would include the following at the very least:

March 8 – Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 goes missing with 239 aboard.

July 17 – Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 is shot down in Ukraine killing all 298 aboard.

July 23 — TransAsia Airways Flight 222 crashes in Taiwan killing 48 of the 54 aboard.

July 24 — Air Algerie Flight 5017 crashes in Mali killing all 116 aboard.

December 28 — Indonesia AirAsia Flight 8501 goes missing with 162 aboard (wreckage later found in the Karimata Strait, recovery ongoing).

Crashes by continents

The chart above represents the total number of crashes by continent excluding crashes on international waters since the ’40s.

Sticking to 2014, the severity (and frequency?) of these occurrences over the year – most notably the 3 crashes within a single week of July 2014 — have led to a debate on whether air travel is getting more dangerous and if 2014 was in fact the most unsafe year with respect to aviation safety. But is this really true?

Crashes over time

A look at number of plane crashes per year from 1950 would suggest that that is not true, and if anything, air travel is getting safer over time with 2013 easily the safest year for air travel in recent times albeit with a slight increase over 2014. This increase in 2014 is almost insignificant in that it does not affect the overall trend which is going down.

This is even more fascinating considering that air traffic has been growing over time indicating that the ratio of crashes per departures should be falling even steeper.

I have left the number of fatalities because that would depend more on the size of the planes involved than the number of crash incidents.

An interesting observation, though, would be that looking at distribution of crashes by the phase of flight, most crashes –25%– occur during landing than when the plane is cruising.

Crashes by phase of flight

This assertion may not be popular but the data says air travel has never been safer than it’s been in recent times and factors like more media coverage and better connectivity than at any other time in history may have had a factor in creating the perception that 2014 was that bad for air travel.

Why Uber Will Be Africa Challenged.

The other day I was in Europe for the holidays and there, for the first time, I experienced the joys of the technology innovations Uber and AirBnB.
Fascinating, interesting and definitely a must try. How with a mobile app, you have a place to stay, how to move around all privately. Just bring your own beer.

A friend that I was visiting asked me if we have Uber in ‘Africa’, after I put out the tweet
“@g33kmate: Now more than ever i understand why and how innovation in the global north like @Uber and @Airbnb work so well…”

My response to him at the moment was that there is in South Africa but I doubted it would work so well in Kenya and others. I gave a few reason then but after a lot of thought, here is a more comprehensive list:

1. Efficiency and accuracy.
@NyawiraNjuki: @kenyanpundit @uber niche, few cars available, heard from friends drivers not reliable (naija (Nigeria) habits of I’m 10 min away)
Uber works well in cities where it is easy to estimate time, traffic and speeds. In most African countries, however, this is easier said than done. Transit innovation and efficiency is still an untapped market. A response like that in the tweet above is very common from taxi drivers, “I see your house, I am almost there..” While in fact, they are not. They just try to manage your expectations.
Unlike global northern countries where Google maps can determine traffic and road works and propose alternative routes, this is not the case in Africa. For this reason, arrival time estimation might will not work very well.
The good thing, though, with Uber is that you are able to track the Driver’s exact location

2. Best Buy
We are the kings (and queens) of bargains. Well, that is what mama taught me! Don’t settle for the initial price, bargain. I have never taken a cab in any African city that I have visited without bargaining. The closest I came was in Egypt where they had metered taxis and even then, they had an alternative for no meters. Uber negotiates a price for you mostly because they can determine a lot of things on distance and congestion. They try to give you the best price. With Uber, well, I am not sure if I could have gone lower than the accepted price.
Most cabs are not metered. In Kenya there are no metered taxis, although most taxi companies have zone prices. From one zone to another attracts a standard price.

3. Modes of payment
Uber relies a lot on people using credit/Visa cards for payment. In a continent where Ecommerce is not largely trusted, payments for this becomes a hard conversation. With recent hacks on credit card information, eCommerce transactions take a step forward and two steps back. Uber works in a way that lets you enter your correct details and every time you use the service, your card is billed and you do not need to carry or give any cash to the driver. In our mobile money economy, this logic will not work as seamlessly as the card one.

4. Security and trust.
I know people who had had the same taxi driver for years! Some of my friends trust their cab drivers with their house keys and for this reasons, they find it hard taking a ride from someone new; even then, they only work on recommendation, “hey, what’s the number to your cab guy! Mine is busy..” With insecurity issues in Africa, it is generally harder to take a random driver each time you go home especially when not from licensed taxi companies with driver profiles.
The WorldBank, USAID and the UN use specific taxi companies and even for their visiting expats, they only recommend these. Use another at your own risk.

5. Licensing and legal issues.
Just like the licensing issues Uber drivers are experiencing in Belgium, Germany etc, the same is evident with this week’s case in South Africa where cars were impounded for lacking proper licenses. There are many unlicensed drivers especially in kenya, who do a more off the grid version of Uber and signing up for a service like this brings them to the limelight especially with getting into trouble with the law.
In Kenya, for example, any public service vehicle is insured and licensed differently. With Uber, this means that the drivers have to go through the same registration with the government and insurance as they are now PSV. Why not be a legal taxi all the same?
Generally, having taken both, legally registered and the unregistered taxis charge the same amounts for movement. Uber’s competitive advantage is the lower price index.

This post in no way suggests that Uber will never work in Africa.
When @kenyapundit asked how Uber was doing in Nigeria, one of the responses said:
@tizomu: @kenyanpundit Not too bad actually. Nigeria is actually quite a Target for Cab hailing App companies. I know at least 2 set to set up camp.

This just means that Uber will have to rethink they strategies on how to mitigate some of these challenges especially to successfully enter the African market.

But that said, just like I think some cities will alter their licensing plans to accommodate Uber drivers, I am certain there are some drivers that will find a way to make Uber a success.

If you have any more reasons, please post in the comment section. Thanks.

2014 Jamhuri Day Speech by President Kenyatta

Kenya marked her 51st Jamhuri day last week. Traditionally, the sitting president has used such occasions to speak about the challenges facing the nation and outline the government’s road map in terms of addressing those challenges.

President Kenyatta’s second Jamhuri day as president came in the wake of the recent terror attacks and the continued implementation of devolution. So looking at this year’s speech, there is no surprise at the prominence of security and devolution but where is health, education, corruption, climate change etc?

Kenyatta jamhuri  day speech word cloud