Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Barcamp .... Wow!

I know, I know its way past Saturday and I promised to write this by 6pm Saturday, but the iBurst link we were using at Barcamp misbehaved and afterwards I have been either offline or otherwise occupied :).

If I had to sum up Barcamp, I'd say WOW! Although not that often, I have attended forums with great ideas and great personalities. What made Barcamp different though was the passion behind these ideas and personalities. Each presenter who came on stage was intense in his (sadly there were no 'her' presentations) presentation. Kiania, the MC, had to work hard to make sure there was enough time for everyone to speak.

Starting off Barcamp was Josiah Mugambi with a Bugatti Veyron presentation. This is one presentation I was really looking forward too but sadly I never made it on time. Apart from some LMS preparation of GEC brochures I spent almost 15 minutes looking for parking (I'm going to be a green from now on - walking is good :-) )

I did make it on time for by Edgar Okioga. Apart from myself Edgar must have been the most Microsoftian barcamper in attendance. He did surprise us though by giving out free copies of MSDN Community Distribution CDs marked "Please copy and distribute". Who'd have ever thought?

Kamau Gichigi Ph.D was next with Equal Opportunity Manufacturing and this was one presentation I wish had been allowed more time. He's an engineer so there was a lot of techno-jargon which flew by me, but a business incubator for manufacturers did stick and I'm keenly looking forward to seeing how it develops. The idea is called .... IDEA. Kamau mentioned that a website is in the works but I no URL was given, I will track him down and see if I can get it.

JKUAT seems to be really serious about their IT programs. There were two great presentations that showed ingenuity of the students. The first was from Nick titled "Software Defined Radio". Nick is a self confessed techie and although I grasped the general idea, TLAs were in plenty.

We then had Ashok who talked about Bungeni, an open-source parliamentary system. I really was intrigued by his project since it mirrored a lot of the work I had done on What really impressed me though was the fact that it is open-source and designed to bring the common mwananchi into the parliamentary process.

Felix Kiptum of Mama Mikes was next with a talk on the Long Tail Economics of Abundance. a really interesting theory on how technology has made it possible to produce products in few numbers and still have a sustainable business.

At this point I was called to attend to some pressing business outside the barcamp and I missed David's and Riyaz presentations on Residential Networks and Skunkworks, but I'll be attending the Skunkworks meetings so I'll be giving you the low down on these two.

I made it back to hear Ted Muganda's presentation on Stocks Kenya. Amazing story and really made me think about how Stephen and I started SoftLaw. We didn't really have any idea how big it would become when we started, but as it went on it got a life of its own. Stocks Kenya from Ted sounded like it had a similar genesis.

Next was a really inspiring presentation from another JKUAT student. This time it was about
a LAN/WAN that students had built for themselves between their residential halls. Totally financed by the students the network has encouraged content development e.g. a dating service for the students, and is financially self-sustainable. From the presentation it sounded also like a "wiki" network where any person could add a node or a subnet. Internet service is provided over the network through a prepaid billing system accessed on the intranet. Lots of potential exists and I'll definitely be researching more into this. Credit also to Moi University who have implemented a similar setup. Great challenge to University of Nairobi, although they have access to probably the best resources, their counterparts around the country are leaps and bounds ahead in terms of innovation.

Next up was .... (drum rolls) ... Harry Karanja. Just before I got up I was told to try and keep it within 10 minutes. That was going to be tough, I had to talk about, Genius Executive Centre and this blog in 10 minutes! Luckily most of the stuff I would have talked about: website startups, Kenyan laws, and business incubators had been mentioned by previous speakers. I gave a summary of LawsofKenya and GEC with a Harry Karanja angle and saved sometime to talk about IdeaPool. IdeaPool was a forum that me and seven (Karis, Mibuari, Meg, Stacy, P.King, Andrew & Irene) of my pals/workmates (from Strathmore) started back in 2001. Mostly it was about meeting at Java House cafe on Muindi Mbingu on Saturday afternoons and stuffing ourselves with confectioneries. But we also had big ideas, like volunteering to teach secondary school students about IT and entrepreneurship. Sadly IdeaPool never really picked up steam, and I guess one major reason was the inability to bring more people on board. This is one reason I really loved the barcamp experience. Barcamp also demonstrated that with the internet especially wikis and blogs such forums have access to a much larger audience. I'm hoping that Barcamp will be all that IdeaPool aspired.

As barcamp came to an end, I felt like we had only scratched the surface of the ideas and opportunities existent. Kiania, rightly said that it is a great time for technological innovation in Kenya with the current political leadership (Mutahi Kagwe and his PS Bitange Ndemo). I agree and you can be sure that I will be right in the thick of things!


J said...

Bugatti Video

tHE mEDiCiNemAn said...

don't mean to brag, lakini you were a tad hash on us..
"..great challenge to UoN.."
not entirely right Harry. For more than 15 months now, med school has had it's own student self financed LAN, with reasonably fast internet to boot. Interestingly, the comp techies in Chiromo haven't quite been able to do the same..

Jus' my kshs. 0.02.
Love the blog BTW.

Kariz said...


Yup I got to benefit from the UoN Med Sch wifiLAN (web doc etc initiated it..) quite some last year.

Great to read about IdeaPool! I think u'r right about the defunction. Too many Ideas, too few implementers. But it wasnt a failure though, as will be seen soon (hint) from here.

Great Blog!

Anonymous said...

Hello Harry,
Great to see other Kenyans working hard on IT. We have a couple of things in the pipeline ourselves, in addition to our community weblog here at

Please write me an email at we see if we can work a something together,


Anonymous said...

Hey Harry.Great to see this stuff and reminiscings of those coffee/death by chocolate days in Java House. Glad to see things are going well back home and our other pals. I see and recognize webdoc and Kariz. You guys keep it up!

Harry Karanja said...

Thanks for the link.

@web doc & kariz
I stand humbly corrected. Great work web doc. Seems you have really thrown down the gauntlet to the Chiromo techies.

Ahh... death by chocolate. I died and resurrected several times.

Anonymous said...

Nice barcamp .... wow! post! Thanks for intesting info! More Bugatti can be found at

Mkenya Halisi said...

Hey people! This is one of the best blogs i have read and its all by a fellow coder/kenyan/strathmore alumni; i got to give it to you harry, this is some good piece of work.

I am a student at moi university, our LAN here is called SOWENET, it has about 50 guys; the physical distance between the hostels is our main obstacle. The very strong winds here make a WLAN a bad idea.

We are designing Sowenet version 2, which will take us to the next level; VSAT internet access, gigabit backbones between the hostels, server with 300gig HDD the whole shebang.

All the design, administration and financing is done by the students. However, since the Sowenet version 2 is such a huge undertaking, we are soliciting for material support from the industry, especially network cables and switches...could you help us? maybe you know someone who works somewhere where they have lots of unused Cat 5?

Harry, you are an inspiration to me. I am also laying the foundation for a software company; my sights are on the government.

We (The IT Group, School of Information Sciences) will be inviting you around september to dec to come talk to us here. Keep up the bon work!

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