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Why Most Government Officials Use Yahoo and Google Mail.

May the record show that I work for the Government of Kenya. But all views in this post are mine and not those of my employer (as made popular by twitter).

There have been many questions about why most government officers use their yahoo and gmail accounts instead of the official government  lll@qqq.go.ke accounts. As stated above, I do work for the government as an independent consultant and I have an official email address that I use for all government business. At the ICT Authority, all business is carried out using official email …@ict.go.ke

There are many reasons why most of the other government offices have not been very successful in using the official emails:

  • User Interface (user experience). This is the one thing that is often ignored in product development, always assuming that software developers are designers and getting the interface all wrong. From what I have noted, most if not all the government offices that are big on their official emails are on google apps (and I think yahoo missed out on an opportunity to make yahoo apps as most of the rogue emails are actually on yahoo). Through this, you have the same user experience as you would on your unofficial gmail account. This generally reduces resistance and makes transitions and change management seamless. Have you ever seen the interfaces on some of the government mailing systems? Well until you see one, reserve your comments.
  • Most government officials joined government when government did not have mailing systems. Even now, not all have this said email. Most of the rest joined government after a few hoops and loops in private sector and the rest are digital natives that had a yahoo or google account when they were in class four. Have you ever had to abandon your old school way of life for a new one that is not enforced?
  • From experience, there is mostly no regulation that requires you to use your official email (at least my contract does not have any of that). You have an email address? Well we hope you use it. Thank you.
  • For some, this is driven by demand. Those who knew their personal emails prefer to use the personal emails and hence they end up always logged into those or email forwarding to these addresses and the way emails are set up, sometimes you are not guaranteed that responding on an email forward will go with your official email.
  • Most government secrets happen on hard paper documents labeled, well, ‘SECRET.’ For this reason, there is little threat of any of these spilling over or being tapped by the NSA or whoever it is that listens in on email conversations.

Not rocket science really, just some years of observation.

Kenya – U.S.: A Growing Partnership?

Kenya’s burgeoning trade deficit is old news. The rate of growth in imports has not been replicated on the exports side for a while now.

trade

But who is contributing to these growing import figures?

India, the European block, China and The African block have been Kenya’s main suppliers of merchandise. But over the last 2 years, the proportion of imports from the U.S has been growing from 4.8% in 2012 to 10.43% in 2014 moving above Africa, which contributed just over 9% in 2014, in the process.

imports

This growth is unmatchable – not even by much talked about partner China.

With the recent visit from U.S. secretary of state and the upcoming one from President Barrack Obama, it looks like the stage is being set for more of this.

Earthquake Events by the Numbers

On the wake of the 7.8-magnitude quake in Nepal, we ran into some numbers on earthquakes numbers by Mw scale distributed over the last few years.

2013 was clearly the most earthquake-hit year in recent times with 58 events while 2008 being the least with 18 events.

earthquakes

The April 25th Himalayan earthquake which has led to more than 3,000 deaths reported so far including after shocks and the destruction of homes, businesses and iconic sites one of which is the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Kathmandu Durbar Square remains the most destructive natural event of recent times.

Tanzania Statistics Act, 2013. Our Gross Misinterpretation.

This all started with a tweet that had this newspaper clipping:

IMG_3135

This quickly made its rounds around the world and understandably since Tanzania will be hosting this year’s Open Government Partnership Africa Forum.

Looking at the comments that came out of this (and having been interviewed by the media many times and my stories always changed for the sexier version), I decided to read this Statistics Bill, 2013 that was passed by the Tanzanian Parliament.

Here is what I think.

This bill is fantastic!

Every single government in the world has a right to constitute a body that is responsible for its data collection dissemination and publication. This bill goes to institutionalize that body (NBS) and to define its role. The Kenya National Bureau of statistics, like all other government agencies also went through this process in the Statistics bill, 2006.

I honestly do not find fault in this bill, in fact, like any other institutional document, I find this to be in order.

  • This act is aimed at the establishing the National Bureau of Statistics and the statistics governing body to provide for the coordination of the national statistical system.
  • The oath of secrecy goes to protect some government information and secrets that generally, for any government should be protected. This is not new and this exists in all bills that i have ready. Every government has this.
  • This bill actually encourages working together of the NBS with other government institutions and private agencies by joint collections and providing that they develop and maintain a comprehensive national databank by using sectoral data banks developed by the various agencies.
  • The journalist in the above article seemed to have an issue with the definition of the official statistics which according to this bill are statistics produced by:
    • the beureau
    • government institutions
    • agencies
      • The very surprisingly interesting thing is the definition of an ‘agency’ – these include research institutions, non – governmental organizations, development partners or any other user or producer of statistics.
      • Although this is subject to the approval of the bureau, this is possibly the best provision that I have seen anywhere.
    • So, contrary to what the journalist published, this bill actually makes provisions for those out of government.
  • This bill also ensures data protection in the disclosure of unidentified information by insisting that all data must be anonymized before publication and all individual forms and returns destroyed within 5 years.
  • In this bill also, are the plans by the government to fund its own data collection through appropriations by parliament. Although they are open to donations, looking at the ordering of their funds and resources to the bureau, this comes in last (if ordering is anything to go by.)
  • All institutions have penalty regulations for those that do offenses or those with gross misconduct. This is no different for government institutions and as the official carrier of national statistics, you do not want your staff to go unpunished for misrepresentation or miscommunication of statistics that might have heavy economic, social or security implications.

All in all, after reading the bill, the one thing that is clear is, do not trust every opinion you read. Create your own.

 

Too Much Data… Endless Possibilities.

Recently, I applied for a loyalty card in one of retail outlets. I was, as part of the procedure, required to fill out a form. The most striking aspect of the process was the actual amount and the level of detail in the information that I had to part with. This included, among other details:

  • Personal details – my date of birth, gender
  • Household and family details – my spouse, size of my household, number of children
  • Location details – residence
  • Contact details – email, phone number
  • Behavioral details – occupation, interests
  • Financial details – who I bank with

A quick look at this information could only lead to one inference: retail outlets in Kenya are, knowingly or not, effective collectors of staggeringly useful data.

Remember, these retail brands have outlets all over the country: In every major town you would expect to find one of, some of and in some cases, all of Tuskys, Naivas, Nakumatt or Uchumi outlets just to name some of the major brand names. This means they collect this data every single day while effortlessly covering the whole country.

Taking all these information about shoppers, adding to this the fact that the loyalty card provides a system to track shopping habits like frequency of shopping, items purchased and amount spent over time all mapped to an individual; and then overlaying this against already existing demographic data would create a rich and massive data set from which no limits exist when it comes to what could be achieved from it.

Association rules and patterns between variables could easily be used to inform targeted marketing strategies, shopping basket data analysis, product clustering, catalog design, stocking, store layout plans and channel expansion among other retail-specific business decisions.

The goal here would be to turn all this information into actionable insight. First and foremost, the right business questions must be asked. From these questions, appropriate analytic techniques and tools are developed to add value to this customer data by turning it into insight.

Whether this is happening within the Kenyan retail space and at a level high enough to influence outcome is debatable but one thing is for sure: Out there, brands like Budget are firmly in the current datafication-of-life wave and have been known to use customer data as the corner stone of their strategy.

The business needs are there, the data is there, the intellectual capacity is there – so why are we not utilizing these again?