Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Skunkworks 3/10/2009

Kai Wullf gave an incredible talk on fibre at the latest Skunkworks meet. I'm not saying the CEO of KDN gave a talk because he was talking as a frustrated private citizen. 

 The boom we were promised has not happened and he chose this forum, a gathering of "techies" to try and explain why.

Basically the problem is something we can all relate to.

Safaricoms new data plan is about to come to an end. The unlimited offer brought broadband into our homes and offices and we jumped right in, so much so that according to analyst Aly-Khan Satchu  data usage quadrupled!

But here’s the scenario most of us wananchi (non-techies) faced, those of us who think “Torrent” is a word used to describe rainfall. Within a few days, we just didn’t know what to do with it. We hear people download movies from the net, we hear people download music, Facebook was abuzz with links to file sharing sites and tips on how to use them but after 5 or 6 days, we were basically back to normal patterns of internet usage.

What are we in Kenya doing to use the bandwidth we now have available? IT supports business, it always has, since the invention of the computer. Technology has always adapted to what we are doing, but what we are trying to do in Kenya is change what we are doing to adapt to the technology.

The technology used is irrelevant to a consumer, it’s the application of that technology that counts. When you use an ATM you don’t think about whether it linked by copper wire or a radio link, you just need it to work, period.

We use most of the technology around us completely oblivious to what happens in the background, the landing of the submarine cable was the ultimate “back-office operation”, a new support service hiding in trenches around the country. We should concentrate on growing our core businesses. That is what will drive the demand for the new capacity and generate the critical mass required for the prices to go as low as we think they should be.

We talk of rural connectivity, but we need to start with basics, get PCs into peoples hands and teach people how to use computers. What can you do on the internet without an e-mail address? How much demand can we expect from rural areas even if we provide world class infrastructure?  

People will drive the internet revolution in Kenya , not submarine cables and fibre networks, we need to shift the focus away from the “how” to the “who” or we risk losing the opportunity we have been given.


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