Past and future

Today for me marks four years of post-college work.

I’ve been from one end of this country (Kilifi) to the other (Kisumu), working for various organizations that, basically, do good. Some of those organizations try (and somewhat succeed) at charging a fair price for a reasonable product. And others brave through thousand-page manuals of big-donor regulations as a necessary evil.

Planting my first eucalyptus

And I’ve been building technology systems where it’s kind of hard to do so. From mobile survey tools on basic feature phones to support rural tree farmers with  KOMAZA, to applications to run schools in some of Kenya’s most challenging slums with Bridge. And of course, web and mobile logistics to tackle rural supply chain distribution IPA/DSW.

I’ve also been a strong part of the tech community in Kenya. With Akirachix, I’ve organized country-wide tech workshops to teach students app development. I’ve also taken part in, won, and even judged some of the ubiquitous app competitions so notorious in this region.

So now I’m packing up, and preparing to begin a new chapter in my life at business school. As I look back on the past four years, and think about how I’ll use the next two, a couple things stand out for me:

  1. I want to stay in technology. It’s in my blood, it’s my passion, and it’s what is transforming Africa (despite the Kenyan government doing stupid things like kicking out the man who brought Kenyan tech forward by leaps and bounds).
  2. I want to do good. I don’t want to just sell widgets and increase dividends for fat-cat shareholders. However, non-profit or profit-making is irrelevant. After all, one could argue that Safaricom is the biggest social enterprise in Kenya.
  3. The technology scene in EA is missing something.  Too  many techies and not enough salesmen, marketers, financiers. Too many app challenges and not enough businesses. When I was at iHub Research trying to find businesses to interview for the Mobile BoP study, we were hard pressed to find many successful (i.e. profitable) mid-sized tech businesses (that were born in this recent tech-boom). Most entrepreneurs we talked to were still in pilot, launch or idea mode.

These thoughts will guide my next two years. I’ll be in the mecca of technology, Stanford and Silicon Valley, and I can’t wait to figure out first-hand how these techies turned their ideas into useful (indispensable) products into profits. Because that’s what the Kenyan economy needs and is poised for. And I’m very excited.

Leave a comment

Filed under b-school

Getting Things Done

Every since a former colleague of mine introduced me to the Getting Things Done system over a year ago, it’s been a crucial tool in my life. What I love most about it is that you can implement as much or as little of the system as you’d like, and it will still make a big difference in your productivity. When I got started, I only implemented GTD to my email, and got my inbox down to ZERO – which by itself was a major win.

What is GTD? It’s turning all your stuff into real, actionable items that you can DO and be done with.

I recently gave a presentation introducing GTD, so I thought I’d share my deck here. Let me know @marialangat if you have any questions about the presentation or GTD in general!

Leave a comment

Filed under Productivity

AppCircus in Nairobi

App CircusThe traveling showcase of the most creative and innovative apps, AppCircus, will be hosted by the iHub and Akirachix on the 10th of September 2011.

Developers can pitch in front of an international jury, formed by industry experts. The winner of the AppCircus will get an opportunity to be nominated for the Mobile Premier Awards 2012, which are held during the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

The deadline to participate is the 22th of August!

Akirachix will be taking the lead in this event as part of their Mobile Social Networking activities that are to be done in Kenya.

The location will be at the *iHub_Nairobi’s Innovation Hub for the technology community at the 4th floor of the Bishop Magua Centre on Ngong Rd.directly opposite the Uchumi Hyper.

Here are the rules for participation:

  • Submissions and presentations to the AppCircus are FREE and open to any high school/college/university student.
  • Applicants must send one representative person to present the app live on stage.
  • Apps are submitted through the appcircus.com platform.
  • Registration and membership on appcircus is FREE!
  • appcircus.com members need to add the app to their profile before applying to an AppCircus.
  • Each App can only present in one AppCircus, except if it receives a Runnerup Waiver.
  • One app in each AppCircus will be nominated for the pool of apps from which the 20 finalists for the Mobile Premier Awards 2012 will be selected.
  • The app with most votes after the nomination winner, will receive a “Runnerup Waiver”, which allows it to apply again to be selected at another AppCircus.

To join in AppCircus register here.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Google Plus, now what?

So … now what?

I got my G+ account back when it was invite only. I felt cool. I felt like one of Malcolm Gladwell’s early adopters. I was won over by the innovative look and feel – all that white space has to be a good thing, right?

I added new friends. Well, since it was invite-only, there weren’t so many of my actual friends on there. Only other early adopters. Other internet and social geeks. Who were already my friends on Facebook and Twitter and FourSquare. Even when membership opened up to the public, my actual friends and family didn’t want or need another Facebook, so I found myself adding former school mates and really, anyone whose name I recognized, however tenuous the relationship. But that’s Ok! There were Circles! The Circles feature is supposed to be the Facebook killer, cleanly solving all the privacy issues that have confounded Facebook and frustrated it’s users.

So now, a couple months later I have a social network filled with people I don’t really know, and I triple-post my status updates on Twitter, Facebook and now Google Plus.  Um… now what?

So far, G+ does what FB does, and sometimes does it better. But it really must go above and beyond, and give us something that is not available on all the other existing networks. Otherwise, it will die a slow boring death. I’m already bored. And I’m an early adopter!

How do you use Google Plus?

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

We can have IT all

Photo credit: Shikoh Gitau

Olga Arara, Google Kenya. Photo credit: Shikoh Gitau

Yesterday, Women @Google Africa and AkiraChix co-hosted a Women in Tech Cocktail at the iHub. It’s always great to see so many self-professed female tech geeks gathered together. We had some special guests, including Olga Arara, Google Kenya’s new Country Manager, and Margaret Lisowiec a Google Software Engineer based in Zurich. In addition, there were many of the “usual suspects”, young Kenyan women making in impact in technology, including m-farm’s Jamilla, iHub manager Jessica, Google’s Shikoh Gitau and Jacqueline Rajuai. The ladies of Akirachix were also in attendance: @mariegithinji,  @Lkamau, @owigarj, @g33kmate, @rosewkaranja, @kiguruc, @AngieNicoleOD, @gkitony and yours truly, @marialangat

Most inspiring was the talk by Olga Arara, Google Kenya’s new Country Manager. Olga has had an exceptional career in Kenya’s business and technology fields, and has an Engineering undergraduate degree and MBA in Engineering Management. She shared with us her trailblazing career progression, and how she balances work, her marriage and family, and her personal development while making it look easy.

Naturally for such an event, we got into how to succeed as women in technology, a traditionally male-dominated industry. Olga’s advice was to “remove our blinders” and self-imposed limits. She emphasized the importance of not limiting yourself by defining yourself only as a woman. She also emphasized letting excellent results speak for oneself. While I agree that we shouldn’t preface our every statement with “As a woman I think… “, it is still important to recognize that there are very real barriers to success for women and other minorities. This is why I firmly believe that it is important to keep organizations like Akirachix active, organizations that have the specific mission of helping women succeed in their fields despite institutional barriers.

Another great subject that Olga addressed was work-life balance. Olga  is 39 years old and has two children. She has been married for 16 years and draws a lot of strength from her family life. Olga emphasized the importance of making time for friends and family. She keep a strict 8-5 schedule, which encourages her to perform optimally when at work, while allowing her meaningful time for her family, friends and personal development.

Women in Tech Cocktail audience. Photo credit: Shikoh Gitau

1 Comment

Filed under Akirachix

Solar powered laptop … released in Russia

Samsung has released a solar powered laptop, that may offer a battery life of up to 14.5 hours. Where can I sign up, you ask? Take the next flight to Moscow, because these machines are being initially offered in Russia. Apparently they were unveiled at the Africa Regional Forum right here in Nairobi, but I am puzzled as to why Samsung didn’t take the next logical step and release them to the Kenyan market. After all, we seem to be exactly the right market for this product – a growing technology hub, lack of electrification in many parts of the country, and plenty of sunshine (although you wouldn’t know it from looking out the window at this very moment).

Photo credit: Samsung.com

“The NC215S will be available in August and run Windows 7 and Samsung claims that it will be able to offer a battery life of up to 14.5 hours… Samsung Electronics Africa hopes to reach $10 billion in sales by 2015.”

More from the Telegraph and Engadget

Leave a comment

Filed under Gadgets

Pivot 25 Coverage

Two posts that talk about the recent mobile developer conference, Pivot 25

Photo Credit: Daudi Were (@mentalacrobatic )

White African: http://whiteafrican.com/2011/06/17/a-pivot-25-retrospective/

CIO:  http://www.cio.co.ke/Main-Stories/pivot-25-showcases-mobile-innovation-incubation.html

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized