Kenya IAP 2011 Blog

Strathmore University
Jan. 10, 2011 to Jan. 28, 2011

IAP Africa: TV and Magazine Publicity

Anshul Bhagi

Jan. 31, 2011

There's something magical about the word "Android" that immediately attracts the attention of any technologically literate crowd in Kenya. 

Just through one press-release that read “Future Entrepreneurs of Strathmore: Android Project Showcase”, the first ever IAP-Africa program succeeded in bringing two big players in Kenyan media to the final event: KTN (Kenyan Television Network) and CIO magazine.



Though I'm no expert on Kenyan tv stations, a quick check on Wikipedia reveals that KTN is "the leading television station in Kenya."


A member of the Makao team gets interviewed by a reporter from KTN.
A member of the Makao team gets interviewed by a reporter from KTN.
A member of the iDhibiti team gets interviewed by a reporter from KTN.
A member of the iDhibiti team gets interviewed by a reporter from KTN.


The KTN reporter and cameraman that attended the project showcase captured the full event on video and were most interested in the ideas that the students had come up with and the Android app prototypes that they had created over the past three weeks. At the end of the event, the reporter spoke with representatives from Google and Safaricom about the future of Android in Kenya and then interviewed members from four of the seven student teams. KTN then played a 30-minute piece on Android, the Google-MIT-Strathmore-Safaricom partnership, and the social impact of our students' ideas that same evening on public television at 9:30pm.


CIO Magazine

On Saturday, the day I left Kenya for US (just one day after our final event + project showcase), I had a fairly long (2.5 hours) interview with the Chief Editor of CIO East Africa, a subsidiary of US-based CIO ( The magazine targets business leaders in the IT space and provides insights on the latest technology trends, and in this case the magazine wanted to write an article about the advent and potential impact of Android in Kenya.

The CIO editor whom I spoke with was looking for answers to the following questions:

  • What is the big deal about Android / What is it?
  • How long until Android phones become affordable in Kenya?
  • How can CIOs / CEOs make the most of Android technology in Kenya?
  • What is the "IAP-Africa" program through which Strathmore's students learned Android?
  • What's the story behind the MIT - Strathmore - Safaricom - Google partnership from which the "IAP-Africa" program was born? What does each of these groups gain from the program?
  • What ideas did the 21 students in our course come up with, and would any of these ideas directly impact small businesses in Kenya?
  • Right now in Kenya, employees are pushing their businesses to provide smart-phones simply so that they can have a better email/web browsing/SMS experience. But how can smart-phone platforms like Android be used to do more than just improve email/SMS, etc.? How can businesses use Android devices to actually simplify, economize, or facilitate business processes?
  • How can the Android experts that we have trained through our course actually play a role in ushering in this revolution in business processes through Android technology?

The editor mentioned that she intended to write a 1-page article on these topics for the next issue of CIO East Africa, and I will definitely post a link to the article on this blog if / when I come across it.

IAP Africa: The Grand Finale

Anshul Bhagi

Jan. 31, 2011

Over 100 guests attended the event, including representatives from Google, Samsung, iHub, Safaricom (largest telephony provider in Kenya), and a number of start-ups. Also in attendance were professional photographer Eric Gitonga (who has graciously provided the photographs included in this blog post), MIT/Harvard documentary film-maker Diane Hendrix, and members of the media/press, most notably KTN (Kenya Television Network).


The event kicked off with a presentation from Dr. Sevilla, the former Dean of the Faculty of Information Technology at Strathmore University and the man behind the innovative Masters program that our 21 students are a part of. Following Dr. Sevilla's opening, Austin and I, the course instructors, addressed the crowd and invited representatives from Google and iHub to the stage to speak about the future of smart-phone technologies and mobile innovation in Kenya.

Following these introductory presentations, we commenced the student presentations, the main part of the event. One at a time, each of the 7 groups took the stage and addressed the crowd for five minutes. Each presentation was followed by a Q&A session in which the audience was encouraged to address questions to the presenting group. For the majority of groups, the flow of questions from the audience was endless, and I had to repeatedly interfere on the microphone and request that we proceed with presentations and save the unanswered questions for the end of the event.

Networking Reception

The group presentations were followed by a networking reception during which the seven groups were arranged on separate tables in science-fair format and event attendees could hop from table to table, checking out each group's website (on a laptop) and Android application prototype (on an Android phone).

The event set-up was quite conducive to mingling: tables for the student groups were on one side while tables with food (samosas, sandwiches, and pizza-bites) and beverages were on the other side. In between, there were ample round-tables where people could (and did) gather to make conversation and exchange business cards and ideas.

During the networking reception, I was pleased to see company representatives (Google and Safaricom, especially) approaching groups to express interest in their ideas, to offer feedback, and to suggest next-steps. This, for me, was a sign that the time and effort our students had invested in their projects had produced returns; our teams had been acknowledged by local innovators and technology experts and conversations (about synergies, opportunities for collaboration, funding, employment) had been started that could continue in my absence.

From a sustainability point of view, this was key. The fact that this first "IAP-Africa" produced ideas that were so well received by the local community, and that local companies and individuals are interested in working with Strathmore University to make sure these ideas reach fruition and are actually turned into companies, bodes extremely well for future years and future iterations of the program. It is my goal now to take this success story and share it with stakeholders and potential future sponsors in US and at MIT, so that the impact and accomplishments of this year's IAP-Africa program can be repeated year after year.

IAP Africa: Young Entrepreneurs Panel

Anshul Bhagi

Jan. 27, 2011

On Monday, Day 1 of Week 3, we were fortunate enough to have five young Kenyan entrepreneurs visit our course as guest speakers. These five were either recent graduates, college drop-outs, or current college students who had experienced the ups and downs of starting a company and were able to engage our class of 21 students on the following topics:

  • Companies they are currently working on
  • How they ended up where they are -- the role of networking, luck, aggressiveness
  • Source of their start-up ideas
  • Experiences with failure, and how they dealt with it
  • Resources for entrepreneurs and innovators in Nairobi/Kenya
  • Advice for the budding entrepreneurs of Strathmore (the students of our class)

The panel went fantastically, and the advice and words of wisdom from our panelists were very relevant to the goals and vision of our 3-week Android + Entrepreneurship course.

Young Entrepreneurs Panel. From left to right: Kariuki, Hilda, Mark, Derick, and Bernard.
Young Entrepreneurs Panel. From left to right: Kariuki, Hilda, Mark, Derick, and Bernard.

Here are the bios of our five panelists:



Kariuki Gathitu

Kariuki is the founder of Zege Technologies, an IT company whose main objective is to deliver solutions in the new emerging market of mobile money and related services in the banking and finance sector.  He is the lead system architect and software developer and graduated from Kenyatta University with a degree in computer science. He has had a number of years of experience in the IT industry with online media and also in the banking sector especially when it comes to information systems that drive financial institutions. Most prestigiously he developed the M-KESHO integration technology that the bank uses to transfer money from Bank accounts to M- PESA.

Hilda Moraa

Hilda is a 4th year student at Strathmore University, pursuing a Bachelor Degee in Business in Information Technology. She emerged the winner of the 2010 Mobile Boot Camp competition that takes place every year at the University. She developed a mobile system called ‘M-order’ which provides a new way for clients of beverage companies to shop quicker and efficiently by using mobile technology. She is also the co-founder of ‘M-Kijiji’ Ideas Initiative program (MKIIP). This initiative program allows students to brainstorm and share their creative and innovative ideas that will fully utilize the irrefutable benefits of mobile technology. The students then develop applications that will provide solutions to the local community for the common good of the society.

Hilda is also a volunteer mobile developer in a start-up mobile village called Zealgour Solutions. In addition to all this she provides printing and related services around Strathmore University. Hilda can be described as an aggressive lady and someone who is clear on what she wants to achieve in life. She can move a crowd with her eloquence and passion for what she does, particularly in the ICT community. Her biggest dream is that young women in Information Technology will make a great impact in the world today via mobile technology. She believes that this change will ensure sustainable development in the community.

Mark Kaigwa

Mark is a storyteller. He works with brands, agencies and small businesses helping them communicate and sustain online communities with the help of web technology and social media. He's the writer of the award-winning Warner Bros. videogame Pamoja Mtaani and is a partner at Afrinnovator, one of Africa's leading blogs on innovation, technology and startups. He's a principal at web startup GotIssuezan online feedback & suggestion box for African companies. He speaks regularly at universities and conferences and always enjoys a good laugh. He blogs on creativity and technology over at


Derick Lung'aho,

Derick is an alumnus of Strathmore University (DBIT `06-`07), AITI (`08), and currently (in his final year) pursuing Bsc. Computer Science from the University of Nairobi. He's passionate about technology and the great impact it can have in our lives. Currently his focus is on mobile technologies, and he has gained some hands-on experience by working as an intern for the Nokia Research Center Africa and for Google Zurich.

Derick believes that mobile technologies afford communities the requisite flexibility needed to increase technology uptake in Kenya, where the number of mobile phones far exceeds that of traditional PCs. Derick plans to get back on the entrepreneurship scene over the coming months, after a failed start-up attempt a few years back.

Bernard Adongo

As a  Japanese Ministry of Education Engineering Scholarship recipient, Bernard studied Information Engineering & Electronics in Japan. He built software for a number of Japanese companies before returning to Kenya where he worked on several IT businesses ( included) before joining the start-up mobile VAS provider - Cellulant. At Cellulant, he was in charge of infrastructure and oversaw expansion to  Nigeria, Ghana, Zambia, Botswana & Tanzania. Currently, he's based at the ihub where he is involved with, m-order and other businesses, and is a member of the government task force on Visual Effects & Animation Industry.

IAP Africa: Student Project Ideas

Anshul Bhagi

Jan. 21, 2011

The 21 students in the 3-week Android + Entrepreneurship course are divided into 7 groups of 3  and we have structured the course such that each group will develop its own Android application over the duration of the course. On the final day of the course (Jan. 28), the students will present these applications, along with their monetization/business plan for the applications, to a group of innovators, investors, and engineers from Google, Safaricom, iHub, MIT, Harvard, and members of the Kenyan press.

Here are the project / business ideas for the seven groups, in the students' own words: is a virtual meeting place for sports fans where they can give comments and update others on sports events and team performance. It focuses on all sports and merchandise with help from Google maps and directions in finding venues and shops. It is a free android app with major revenue potential from adverts. is the one stop shop for the kenyan sports fan!

Get the sales promotions and discounts in your locality and share them with your friends!. WapiDiscount uses technologies like Crowd Sourcing, Google Maps, Global Positioning Systems (GPS), Augmented Reality to give you live information on promotions for free.

Snakes and Ladders:
Snakes & Ladders is a mobile phone version of the popular “Snakes and Ladders” classic board game built on the android mobile platform. The game seeks to take advantage of the wide and rich features offered by the android platform but hardly exploited by similar games in the android market to gain competitive edge. Players will compete in single player mode against the cell phone or in multi player mode over the internet thereby giving players a more interactive and enhanced experience only comparable to playing the real game.

Matatu* management system that relays real time information on the daily operation of the vehicle to management/owners: amount collected, overhead s, and current location. It replaces the traditional way of manual record keeping by the matatu crew, and reduces fraud by secretly capturing round trips and routes plied.

*Matatu: Public commuter vehicles in Kenya

“MyOpinion” is an android application that converges all opinion seeking services in one platform. This includes Media Houses and companies. Users participate by choosing a category and answering available questions, of which there is no limitation. A third category is blog that gives the user an opportunity to post a burning question, and answer each day’s “Question of the day”. The administrator posts each day’s question according to user preference popularity.
The companies in question give incentives to drive the usage of the product.Being a free application ,the target is media houses and companies, the revenue model being advertisements and SMS charges for the blog question.

Makao- "Taking you places!"
Makao is a location based mobile application developed on the Android platform. It seeks to eliminate the hustle faced by tourists and locals (working class) in finding accommodation. It possesses massive revenue potential from adverts and commission based collaborations with the relevant stakeholders in the Tourism and Property-Ownership industry. The application integrates up-to-date Location and Price-based searches, Maps and Directions to target locations, and many other features aimed at enhancing efficiency and cost-cuts on the part of locals and tourists by maximizing on the already available Google APIs.

iDhibiti (Transport – Personal Road Safety)
iDhibiti is an android application targeted at travelling passengers alerting them when the vehicle exceeds their set speed limit. This will allow passengers take action such as cautioning the driver or reporting to authority (traffic police, vehicle owners). Reduce road accidents and save lives using iDhibiti.

IAP Africa: The future entrepreneurs of Kenya

Anshul Bhagi

Jan. 21, 2011

There are a total of 21 students in the Android course we're running here in Nairobi. All of these students are Masters students who have been selected for an innovative, new 2-year graduate degree in "Telecommunications, Innovation, and Development" at Strathmore University. Over the course of their two-year Masters program, which is sponsored by Safaricom (the leading network provider in Kenya), these students will learn Java, SMS, J2ME, iPhone, Blackberry, and through the 3-week course we're currently teaching here, Android technology.

As far as I know, the 21 students in our course are the first 21 college students in Kenya to learn Android  -- and that's a pretty big deal! Android hasn't yet hit Kenya the same way as it has in the US, and nobody teaches the platform at the school or college level. The doors are wide open for these 21 students, and the opportunity to start successful businesses around Android applications that provide meaningful services to local Kenyans is immense.

During the Android + entrepreneurship course, we have tried to drive this realization into the students -- if they are able to master Android technology, build impactful mobile apps, and seize the business opportunity that lies ahead of them, they will undoubtedly be successful CEOs,  founders, and innovators by the time Android devices take hold in Kenya.

Currently, the cheapest Android phone sold in Kenya is 8,500 shillings (~100 USD), and according to Google representatives  in Nairobi (with whom we met and spoke earlier this week), that price is likely to drop to 5,000 shillings (~60 USD) within a few years. At that price-point, Android smartphones will become more affordable than the cheapest smartphones made by Nokia (presently the leading phone manufacturer in Africa, with > 63 % market share in East Africa).

This is heartening news for Google as well as for our 21 students, who, if they play their cards right, could end up being the future successful entrepreneurs and innovators of Kenya.

IAP Africa: Week 2 Summary

Anshul Bhagi

Jan. 21, 2011

We have now reached the end of the 2nd week of the 3-week Android + entrepreneurship course, and I'm extremely pleased with the progress.

By the end of week 1, the students had learned basics of Android programming (designing user interfaces, event handling, multiple-page apps); narrowed down their ideas for Android applications to one feasible, socially impactful, and monetizable project; paper prototyped their applications and presented their visions via 60-second Elevator Pitches (which were judged by Kenyan entrepreneur/investor Martin Mbaya). During this time, they completed various mini-projects (one per day), two of which were an Android calculator application and an Android surveying app that gathers information from the user via a simple form.

Week 2 was even more efficient and eventful than the first, partly because we had already overcome the logistical challenges of the first week (finding an available room at Strathmore for the course, installing necessary software, setting up the Nexus One devices provided by Google, obtaining SIM cards from Safaricom, etc.). The second week went as follows:

Day 1: Intro to complex UI (scrollable lists, image galleries, drop-downs), and reading/writing from local databases on the phone.

Project/Lab: A Notes application that lets users create notes and save them onto a local database on the phone so that they can be viewed or edited later.

Day 2: Location-detection using GPS and Network (WiFi, GSM), and displaying information on interactive Maps. On this day, there were also three guest speaker presentations (two from Google Africa representatives, and one from an expert mobile developer from London; I'll include pictures of these in a separate blog post).

Project/Lab: A location-tracking Android application that obtains the user's latitude and longitude and displays it on Google Maps, along with some other points of interest.

Day 3: Reading data from external SQL Databases; Web services and XML parsing with Android.

Project/Lab: Android app that parses XML data from an external PHP script and displays it on a scrollable list.

Day 4: Groups started formally working on their apps. They created timelines, divided responsibilities, and submitted brief summaries of the technical and business aspects of their projects (which I've posted as a separate blog entry). We also worked individually with groups on topics such as 2D Graphics, Splash Screens, and Audio playback.

Day 5: Groups continued work on projects, with help from instructors (Austin and me) and Dominic, one of the two course TAs.

IAP-Africa Program: A New Direction for AITI

Anshul Bhagi

Jan. 13, 2011


It is with great excitement and enthusiasm that I write this blog entry (my first for AITI). I am presently in Nairobi, Kenya (as of Jan. 8th) and I'll be here until Jan. 29th, leading, creating, and teaching a 3-week course called "AITI: Smart Phone Technologies in the Future East African Context".


This course marks a new direction for AITI and for MIT's engagement with Africa and is significant on multiple fronts: The 3-week pilot program aims to establish an IAP-Africa program at MIT, through which the university can send students every year (during the month of January) to Kenya and other African countries with high mobile penetration to teach mobile technologies. In addition, this innovative course introduces Android, a topic that has never before been taught by AITI (or by any institution, for that matter) in Africa, and it anticipates the rapid expansion of the smart-phone market on the African continent.


Android, the leading and fastest growing smart-phone platform in Africa, alleviates the constraints that are intrinsic to feature-phones/J2me/SMS by providing mobile app developers a java-based programming environment that allows for the creation of easy-to-use, interactive, and aesthetically pleasing applications. More importantly, it provides developers the ability to tap into a number of built-in features (magnetic/temperature/proximity sensors, GPS, accelerometer/gyroscope, maps, video camera, audio/video player, speech recognition, etc.) to build more sophisticated, more intelligent, and ultimately more useful applications. And finally, Android's international user-base and rapidly expanding app-store provide Android developers with numerous opportunities to monetize and start businesses around their applications.


It is for these reasons that I am in Nairobi at the moment, pioneering, with the help of Austin Brinson (MIT Class of 2013), a 3-week Android + entrepreneurship course and teaching a group of 20 Masters students at Strathmore University.


Between now and Jan. 29, Austin and I will be teaching Android through a series of hands-on labs and projects; organizing idea brainstorming sessions, elevator pitches, and business-plan writing exercises; inviting guest speakers from Google (one of the sponsors for AITI and for this course), iHub (a mobile innovation center in Nairobi), and other start-ups; and working with the students to develop and deploy (by the end of the three weeks) contextually relevant Android applications in the fields of Health, Education, Employment, Productivity, Search/Information, Banking/Finance, and Entertainment.


As the first week comes to an end, the course is well under way. Students are picking up Android quickly (since they have very strong Java backgrounds from AITI's courses in Summer 2010), and have already come up with very creative and impactful ideas for their final Android application projects.


Since this post has already gotten too long, and since there's still too much to say about our experiences with the course over the past few days, I will let Austin cover the details in a separate blog post. Over the coming days, he and I will continue to post our experiences on this blog, so feel free to follow us as we go through the vicissitudes of this first-time and full-of-learning IAP-Africa mobile technologies pilot program.


Thanks, and stay tuned!