Category Archives: Reflections

Plumbing For 2014

Last week I had the interesting experience of watching a plumber unblock a clogged toilet.

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I will spare you of the nitty-gritty, but suffice it to say that it is surely a calling.

The plumber, a cheerful elderly gentleman named Omollo, informed me that he had been a plumber since 1974, and had fed and educated his children with his craft. As a matter of fact, his sons are also practitioners.

1974. Do the math, you innumerate cretins!

Watching him work, surrounded by the solid evidence and powerful aroma digested remnants of several days of meals, it suddenly struck me that his work closely parallels that of the Presidential Communications Unit.

  1. Your main work is handling the shit produced by the administration
  2. The hoi polloi do not wish to have do deal with such shit
  3. Sometimes the rate at which the shit is produced is greater than the rate at which you can deal with it
  4. When (3) above occurs, shit ends up everywhere
  5. The hoi polloi is even more upset when (4) above happens
  6. Most people do not actually want to deal with abrupt exposure to even more shit
  7. It is truly a special breed of people who are willing to deal with shit on a daily basis

Still, I must commend the gallant folks who work for this outfit. I for one would be totally unable to disseminate some of the things they disseminate with a straight face. And go home to enjoy a good night’s sleep.

No Traction

“I want to be a billionaire".”

“I want to be promoted to CEO.”

“I want to run my own company.”

“I want to retire by 40.”

“I want to do my masters.”

That’s you, right? Lofty dreams. Lofty ambitions.

millionaire

Now that we are well into 2014, just a week ago you were probably fondly re-iterating these dreams to yourself and perhaps your nearest and dearest.

And yet … is this your day?

6:00: {Alarm Rings}

6.01: {Snooze}

7:00: Wake up, shower, dress, breakfast

7:30: Stage

8:30: Arrive at work

8:31: Twitter. Facebook. Blogs

9:45: Email. Memos. Work

10:00: Tea

10:30: Twitter. Facebook. Blogs

11:15: Work

12:30: Twitter

12:50: Lunch

2:00: Return from lunch

2:01: Twitter. Facebook. Blogs

2:30: Work

3:30: Meeting

4:00: Work

4.30: Put out feelers on evening action – drink ups, nyama, coffee dates, movies, etc

5:00: Exit, stage left

6:00: Coffee joint

7:30: Local

9:00: Home

9:30: Supper

10:00: Movies / Series

12:00: Sleep

Rinse and repeat.

It is, isn’t it?

genius

Chances are you started January like this and before you know it it’s December.

You will then wonder how time flies as you pop the New Year drink. You will then say:

“I want to be a billionaire".”

“I want to be promoted to CEO.”

“I want to run my own company.”

“I want to retire by 40.”

“I want to do my masters.”

And before you know it another year has passed.

The next thing you know you are married, have two kids, a dog, a mortgage and credit card debts.

And come New Year …

“I want to be a billionaire".”

“I want to be promoted to CEO.”

“I want to run my own company.”

“I want to retire by 40.”

“I want to do my masters.”

Notice anything? Your goal is no nearer than it was 1, 2, 5, 10, 25 years ago.

Why?

Because you’re not doing anything consciously to move closer to your goal. You’re not making any traction.

donkey-and-carrot

So, you are stuck in the same job you have been at for the last x years, at the same level – or perhaps a level above.

And the world moves right on without you.

On top of that, threats are coming up every day.

Younger, faster, more energetic kids are being churned out of campus every day. Who don’t mind spending the night in the office.

Which you can’t. Because you must pick up the kids from school. Or cook. Or pick up your wife. Or take the baby to the doctor.

What happened?

No traction!

You don’t just magically do your masters. Or magically become a millionaire. Or magically start a business.

You must WORK at it.

Take “do my masters”.

That is an amorphous goal that you will probably never hit.

Break it down like so.

  1. Do research of what master’s degree I want, which includes WHAT PURPOSE
  2. Find out which universities offer
  3. Get the prospectus
  4. Choose the university and course
  5. Find out the fees
  6. Save / borrow / find money to pay
  7. Enroll for the course
  8. Do the course, assignments and group work
  9. Do the dissertation
  10. Graduate
  11. Plug in to #1

This way there one amorphous goal is broken into several concrete tasks that you can track progress.

You then assign resource to each task. Resources are not just money. Time is another resource, which you probably have plenty of.

However we fail to realize that you cannot be enrolled in a master’s and spend your day as the timetable above. You must find time somewhere. And since the day is just 24 hours, you must make sacrifices.

This requires you to cultivate discipline. You must be ready to say no to your friends. Ready to not follow the crowd. Ready to make tough choices. Ready to pass up fun for the greater goal.

Success is a long game.

If you like sleeping in, wake up early to get an extra hour or two of work. Cut down your going out and use that time to study or do research. Don’t the entirety of Sunday sleeping off hangovers.

If it gets to December 2014 and you find you are still at #1 – then you know you have wasted your year.

And that – that’s a pity

General Karangi & The KDF

I am mystified to read that General Julius Karangi’s term as Chief Of Defence Forces has been extended for another year.

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I find this mystifying. Let us consult the Kenya Defence Forces act.

What is the Chief Of Defence Forces anyway?

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Are the terms of appointment, dismissal retirement et al set? Of course they are.

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“Single term of four years or retire upon attaining the mandatory retirement age”

What is the mandatory retirement age?

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Mandatory to most folks means it is not optional.

General Karangi apparently is 62. We can infer he turned 62 this month from this:

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So, given that Karangi was appointed Chief of Defence forces in 2011, his 4 year term is yet to complete.

However he has reached mandatory retirement age.

On what basis will he continue to serve as Chief Of Defence Forces come January 1 2014, given the act says he can’t?

Also if interest is the article talking about how Kibaki split Karangi’s term. Is that legal?

Whither Amina?

From all accounts our Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Amina Mohammed, is an intelligent, articulate official, which normally tends to be an outlier in the typical African government.

And then I read this crock of shit obtuse diatribe of questionable substance cloaked in smoke and mirrors ostensibly penned by that lady where she denies corruption had any role to play in the Westgate fiasco.

Personally I refuse to believe this and find it more likely some acne spotted intern in the foreign ministry is the author of the piece.

Let us dissect the piece, shall we?

It was difficult to read Giles Foden’s article squarely blaming the attack on the Westgate mall in Nairobi on alleged inadequacies of the Kenyan government and, as he puts it "rampant corruption" (Behind terror is corruption, 24 September).

Undoubtedly

The Kenyan military led the operation to free hostages and kill or capture those who had trapped them, and we are proud of the professionalism and determination of our forces.

True, but irrelevant. (Looting suspicious aside)

Foden says: "In Kenya crime and terrorism are deeply linked, not least by the failure of successive Kenyan governments to control either." And he continues: "These attacks are part of a spectrum of banditry, with corruption at one end, terrorism at the other, and regular robbery in the middle."

I can hear the muddy boots of the straw man argument coming up.

Make a brief comparison with other terrorist attacks. The disasters of 9/11 or the more recent Boston marathon in the US and 7/7 in the UK – both highly developed countries – could hardly be blamed on corruption, so why Kenya?

We do not recall Foden blaming corruption within the security agencies involved.

And there we go! Straw man argument!

Let me answer why Kenya, Ambassador.

Kenya has a distinguished reputation of corruption. Let me remind that good Lady that among the projects for Anglo Leasing where the funds where repatriated (ha ha) included

  1. Forensic laboratory
  2. Police communications
  3. Second generation passport scheme

It takes a particularly determined mind to fail to see the connection between appropriating the funds for those project’s, corruption, and the endemic failure that led to terrorists swaggering into Kenya with impunity.

For avoidance of all doubt, OF COURSE they are linked!

"A lot of money has gone into commercial property, and particularly the building of supermarkets. But without governance it all looks very shaky," says Foden.

I dunno why Foden said this either. Makes no sense in this context.

The country’s first truly free and fair multiparty election only took place in 2002, and since then the country has been transformed by a new constitution that gives power to all communities. Less than 10 years ago we introduced free primary education, now over a million children a year go to school.

The free and fair bit – perhaps.

Transformed by a new constitution? Nay. Chiefly because we follow only the bits that work for the affluent.

Free primary education may be true, revolutionary but is IRRELEVANT for this discussion.

Judicial reform, in some cases supported by international experts and donors – including the US and UK – has put the courts out of the political influence that once was common.

There can be only one response that our courts are not influenced politically, unlike before.

Anti-corruption campaigns by government and civil society, the requirement for open tenders for government contracts, and the development of a lively media, have transformed the country.

Accepting kudos for anti-corruption campaigns is like accepting kudos for the birth of quadruplets with the only evidence of your contribution being a well thumbed copy of The Joy Of Sex.

Campaigns are meaningless if corrupt people are not arrested, prosecuted and jailed. Quick, Ambassador, how many were arrested, prosecuted and jailed for Anglo Leasing? Education ministry funds misappropriation? TARDA?

Open tenders, eh? As they say on social media, LQTM.

This is not to say Kenya is perfect – far from it.

This is the first relevant and true admission made so far.

A multinational forensic investigation currently under way – including with British agents – will examine the tragedy and assess the government’s response to it. It shows the extent of our openness that we allow foreign security forces to share in an investigation we could probably manage ourselves.

Very mature to concede this, so soon after “we don’t need the West”

At the same time, we will strive to be as open as possible in our actions against al-Qaida and its regional ally al-Shabaab in the coming months, without compromising the security of our country and the safety of our military personnel.

Presumably she is referring to the multiplicity of social media accounts, some of which have been verified by Twitter, contributing a steady stream of feel good quotes and contradictions, my favorite being with the announcement of every terrorist killed, the count of dead terrorists dropped.

What I’d like to know is

  1. How many terrorists were there?
  2. Where are they now?
  3. Who lit the fire?
  4. How do mattresses bring down a 4 story building?
  5. How did the KDF get deployed?

It is important that there is responsible international reporting.

Undoubtedly.

In this age of budget cuts in the international media there are too few foreign journalists with expert experience of Africa living in and reporting from the continent.

True, but irrelevant.

Kenya suffered a terrible tragedy at Westgate. As information is released in the coming days and weeks, it is crucial – for the sake of the victims and the survivors – that reporting reflects the Kenya of today, and that we are judged by today’s reality, not memories of a Kenya past.

This sounds a lot like the Ruto-esque refrain, “Accept and move on”.

All I can do is bemoan the unfortunate truth that yet again the borg has struck.

Something seems to happen to good people the instant they are sworn in.

The Kenyan Armed Forces & You

Unless you are living under a rock, you know that the Kenya Defence Forces, in the form of the Kenyan Army was deployed to help contain the atrocious situation at Westgate.

As both a fan of history and military engagements, I have read a lot on armed forces throughout the ages, from the rudimentary mobs of yore to the sophisticated units we have today.

One thing that I believe personally is that it is a big deal whenever a standing army is deployed to deal with civilian and civilian matters.

There exists a civilian role, the Commander In Chief, who controls the army. This does not, and cannot mean that CiC can do as he likes with the army. There must be checks and measures and procedures to control this.

Consider the hardware that they air force, navy and army have in terms of weapons, munitions and vehicles. Consider also that the soldiers are trained to operate in a theatre where the mission is essentially to terminate enemy forces and infrastructure.

The KDF has been deployed a lot of late, most recently as an incursion into Somalia. Prior to that to contain matters in Tana River, Baragoi and to contain the Sabaot LDF at Mt Elgon.

Back to the matter at hand.

The KDF showed up at Westgate. Unannounced. The Cabinet Secretary in charge, to date, has not said a single word.

I am curious. How did they get there? Under what circumstances can the army be deployed? Who has the authority to deploy the army? What is the procedure?

For answers I turned to the KDF Act 2012 [PDF Link] that made for some interesting reading.  I will highlight the interesting bits.

Did you know that the KDF is bound to uphold the constitution with regards to freedoms and rights? Section 3

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Of interest is that diversity of people in equitable proportions is explicitly mentioned.

Also, in section 4, if you are an alleged spy, you are bound by the provisions and regulations of the KDF act.

Is it legal for the army to be deployed? Very much so. Section 8

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This means that the KDF can be deployed in conjunction with other bodies e.g. the police or on it’s own.

Note both are subject to the involvement of the national assembly.

When the KDF is deployed, certain things should happen.

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Has this happened yet? I dunno.

What does the Commander In Chief do anyway? Section 9

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Note the “command” bit.

Now much has been said about the powers of the Cabinet Secretary for Defence (or lack thereof) that has not been helped by the current office holder’s deafening silence.

A cursory reading of section 10 shows nothing could be further from the truth. The Cabinet Secretary for Defence is quite a powerful position

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Digest that my friends. That post is not cosmetic, contrary to popular belief and appearance.

Of special interest is section (d) that talks about “control and administration of the defence force as may be delegated by the president over the defence forces”.

If I understand that right, the President can delegate control of the army to the CS.

Of other interest is section (h). This report must make for some fascinating reading. If it is in fact submitted annually. I dunno.

So, so far the pecking order in CiC then the CS. Next in line is the Chief of the Defence Forces.

Section 12

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In other words section (c) says , Omamo is Karangi’s boss.

Much has been said about a mysterious body called the Defence Council. Section 19

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Note again the CS is not a trivial member of this body.

What does this council do? Section 20

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With regards to tenure, section 24 is pretty blunt

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Now, let us move on to co-operation with other authorities. Section 31

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Subsection (a) and (b) are pretty clear. Was (a) followed with regards to Westgate? We’ll get to that.

Much attention was given to the standoff over who was in charge between General Karangi and Inspector General Kimaiyo. Turns out the KDF act specifically mentions joint operations between the police and the KDF. Sections 33

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I draw your attention to sub section (3). Which says Kimaiyo was supposed to be in charge at Westgate.

Is there anything in the law that talks about governing the conduct and operations of the KDF while deployed within the territory? Of course. Section 34

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Subsection (1) is of interest. While supporting the police, the KDF must observe and protect human rights and freedoms of civilians. There is no carte blanche.

Subsection (2) and (3) also are of interest. Were they actually been executed?

Is there mention of the powers and duties of members while deployed? Of course! Section 35

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This has several interesting bits

Subsection (1) I understand to mean while supporting the police under the auspices of section (2) a soldier has all the powers of the police including arrest.

Subsection (5) I understand to mean a solider is bound by the same code of operations as a policeman and can be prosecuted for acting or failing to act in contravention of said code.

So, dear reader, I leave it to you. Under what circumstances do our armed forces keep being deployed? Is the law followed to the letter?

In God’s Name

Sometimes I feel sure that one day God will lose patience, forget that he promised to not get angry and destroy everything and come down to see his creations and tell us

HOW DARE YOU do these VILE things and have the TEMERITY to say it is in my name? IN MY NAME?

The shocking events this past weekend need no further deliberation. It takes an especially disturbed mind to indiscriminately shoot at children. Children. Who probably did not even understand what was going on.

Now, much has been said about the terrorists and the usual “Islamic militants” label bandied around.

There have been tweets and Facebook posts saying absurd things like “Not all Muslims are terrorists, but all terrorists are Muslims”.

This is patently and demonstrably false.

No religion holds the monopoly of misguided fundamentalism.

Religions have been doing unspeakable things to each other from the beginning of time, and happily invoking God’s name in the process.

Examples abound.

Crusades

Look at the Crusades. Christians and Muslims did SHOCKING things to each other. And to innocents. Including raping and torturing women and children, burning alive and other vile acts.

As a matter of fact, there are Christians who fought each other.

In the name of God.

Look at the Inquisitions.

Catholics tortured, maimed and killed Jews and Muslims.

In God’s Name.

Look at the English reformation.

Protestants tortured, burned alive and killed Catholics. Who promptly returned the favour when they got into power.

In God’s name.

Read about the painful process of the formation of the state of Pakistan. Atrocities from both Hindus and Muslims.

In God’s name.

Have we forgotten Timothy McVeigh? Okahoma bomber? Before he was executed he requested a Catholic sacrament.

Remember Anders Behring Breivik, who killed 69 (mostly teenagers) in Norway? Calls himself  “100% Christian”

I would urge people to get to know each other’s religions and beliefs. Get to know. Not convert. At least understand where they are coming from.

It is truly the height of arrogance to commit the most atrocious of acts and then excuse yourself claiming you are doing it in God’s name.

If you’re a Christian, read a Koran. If you’re a Muslim read a Bible. Read the

Bhagavad Gita. Read the Tripitaka.

It costs you nothing. And you will be the better off for it.

Terrorists win not when they shoot innocent people – but when those who ought to know better give in to ignorance and bigotry.

Mining MPesa Data For Fun & For Profit

If you haven’t already, read KRA, Safaricom & You. Go on. I’ll Wait.

That post has raised quite a bit of interest, and so, a follow up.

First of all, there is nothing wrong with data mining. If you are a serious company you hire a guy like me to crunch your data and give you new, non-obvious insights. You will get insights like

  • How to target your products
  • Which to discontinue
  • Which to invest in
  • Whether an advertising campaign is working
  • Usage patterns
  • Purchase patterns
  • Customer patterns
  • etc

What I OBJECT STRONGLY to is government mining our transactional information because we might be evading taxes. And so should you!

Now, let us get back to MPesa. I would like to discuss data mining in a bit more detail.

Again, I’m using MPesa because the numbers from the other providers are of nuisance value.

An MPesa transaction has the following information

  • Date
  • Time
  • Sender phone number
  • Recipient phone number
  • Amount
  • MPesa Outlet

To register for MPesa, or indeed to get your line you provided a raft of information about yourself. The interesting bits are

  • ID Number
  • Name
  • Date of birth
  • Gender

Let us look at that MPesa outlet. An MPesa outlet, obviously, must register itself. Therefore the following information is available

  • Outlet name
  • PIN Number
  • Physical Location
  • Owner name, ID number
  • GPS Co-ordinates *
  • Opening time *
  • Closing time *

The starred items are what I am not sure Safaricom collects, but if i were them, I would.

Now, 6 months of this data is data mining gold. I’d frankly be astonished if Safaricom did not mine this database.

There are some quick, obvious things that you can derive to improve service delivery.

Which MPesa outlets open on time

Given an outlet that claims to open at 8, if the earliest MPesa transaction on a daily basis is between 9 and 9-30 over a continuous period, it is likely that outlet does not open on time

Which MPesa outlets close on time

Same as above. Only for closing time

Which MPesa outlets should be closed

Given you have the GPS co-ordinates, you can position the MPesa outlets on a map. If you find there are four next to each other, A,B,C and D, and A,B and C do on average 30 transactions a day but D just does 5, you can probably close D

Where do you need more MPesa outlets

Example as above. If you find A,B,C and D are processing transactions continuously from opening to closing time i.e. there are no hourly spikes, cross references with the average number of processed transactions across outlets, it is likely they are working flat out in which case you might need more outlets to absorb the load

Which MPesa outlets have a demographic profile

This is more interesting. Since you have the sender’s details you can derive things like what is the modal age of customers at a particular MPesa outlet. By modal age I mean get the age of the sender, and find out how frequently that age occurs.

In other words, you can find in a particular outlet, most visitors are between 25-30 and in another most visitors are 18-23 and in another 40-50.

This is useful information for any competent marketing person. Or a practical person e.g. in the place where most visitors are 40-50 Safaricom can advise the outlets to get chairs for customers to sit on as they wait.

Which are the peak times for transactions

Self explanatory. You might find for example on average an outlet does 10 transactions an hour but at lunch time it spikes to 200. Then it drops back to 10.

You find this outlet cannot handle the spike so customers have to queue.

Dilemma. If you open a second outlet, it will likely be idle. If you do nothing – customer dissatisfaction.

Solution: something like a portable MPesa outlet (a van or something) that can go there at lunch time, absorb the load and then leave)

What is the average time it takes to complete a transactions

Self explanatory. If you remember the initial forms to fill they collected a lot more detail than they do now. Someone must have analyzed these numbers and optimized the process.

And so on. There are tons of other things that you can look out for but those examples should suffice.

Let’s move on to the transaction themselves.

Remember this information is at your disposal

  • Sender name
  • Sender ID number
  • Sender gender
  • Sender age
  • Recipient name
  • Recipient ID number
  • Recipient gender
  • Recipient age
  • Amount
  • MPesa outlet name
  • MPesa outlet location

Armed with a bit of mathematics, economics, psychology mining this information will yield a GOLD MINE of information. Let me re-iterate – anyone with access to both this data and data mining expertise OWNS YOU.

If that alone is a gold mine, Safaricom is sitting on a gold mine next to oil and platinum deposits for the excellent reason that they also have access to your call records.

In other words, they can cross-reference your call and your MPesa records and mine that bad boy still further. Add to this the SMS database and this is paradise.

You can derive a treasure trove of information from this, over and above the examples I gave in my previous post

Over and above who are you sending the money to, there is a lot of context to be gleaned if we can guesstimate why you are sending the money.

Let us take an example of how end to end mining would work.

Let me again repeat– data mining is premised on PROBABILITY, not certainty. Some of the assumptions may be wrong. But usually, you can derive pretty good confidence levels

0721 000000 sends 5,000 to 0722 000000 at 2.00 AM, via his phone.

Let’s get started.

First of all, let us build a profile of both sender and recipient.

0721 00000 maps to John Kamau, aged 37. He has been a customer since 2000.

0722 000000 maps to Jamie Omondi, who is not a male as first thought, but a female, aged 32, a customer since 2003.

Next, let us analyze the context.

A 2.00 AM transaction is unusual. This is unlikely to be paying for something. Let us hop over to the phone logs database. Aha. John and Jamie have in the past made calls to each other.

We can therefore infer that they know each other. Therefore that transfer was probably either some emergency or Jamie had a pressing bill that she needed to pay.

The next bit is to check if there are any subsequent transactions where Jamie is the sender.

Oho! Lipa Na MPesa till number 000000 received a payment of 4,500 from Jamie 5 minutes after she got the money from John.

Have there been any other payments from Jamie to that till number? Yes. On average, twice a moth, over a 6 month period.

From the till number we can determine the business it was registered to. Turns out it is Sky Lounge, a swanky bar.

Have there been any other payments to tills belonging to bars? Yes! 6 other bars / hotels over the same 6 month period.

We can then infer that Jamie probably drinks. Given the profiles of the outlets she drinks at, she probably doesn’t drink Senator, but more likely spirits and cocktails.

So, if Safaricom were decide to license targeted customer profile databases and KBL requests and pays for that, guess whose details would be on that database?

Or if Safaricom decides to do context sensitive advertising. Once Jamie logs in to her Gmail via her Bamba modem, Safaricom can tie her traffic to her number. And can therefore serve appropriate ads (Smirnoff, etc)

Relax, I said IF!

Going back to John.

What other transactions has John made?

John has made at least one transaction every month via Pay Bill to a hair salon. The average amount is 5,000 which means it is unlikely he is paying for himself. There is probably a lady in his life, who he accompanies to the salon.

It also urns out he has used Lipa Karo to 3 different schools. Ergo he either is a father with 3 children or he has 3 dependants he pays school fees for.

John also pays DSTV via MPesa. Premium package (7,000) without fail on the 3rd of each month.

John also pays Access Kenya (10,400) for his home internet connection, also on the 3rd of each month.

John also pays Kenya Power an average of 4,000 a month in power, which says something about where he lives – he likely does not live alone.

His bills say a lot about his financial abilities.

In fact, none of his bills is paid earlier than the 3rd.

Looking closer, on the morning of the 3rd of every month John makes a 30,000 deposit into his MPesa from his bank which he uses to pay his bills. This suggests that likely he has a regular income that clears on the 3rd.

John also makes many payments to Steers. As frequently as 3 times a week, averaging 700. The payments are always in the evening.

This suggests that John eats a lot of take-away. Thus it is unlikely he is living with children (no one feeds kids burgers 3 days a week). This is supported by the fact that his spending at the Steers (700 is pretty much a meal for one).

There is also a payment of 3,000 at the end of every month to a number that does not appear in any of his call logs.

This same number also received the same 3,000 from 4 other different numbers, with the same pattern. No calls.

Who do you send money to but never call? Either some nefarious criminal enterprise or much more likely, a some sort of housekeeper.

But let me not belabour the point. A lot of insight can be derived for data mining, and this is not necessarily a bad thing.

Safaricom probably uses this number crunching to derive things like

  • New products e.g. tariffs
  • Promotions e.g. free calls from minute x
  • Pricing & price adjustments
  • Optimization of infrastructure
  • Competition containment (what is the highest we can charge for inter-network connectivity while still making money, staying clear of the regulator and blacking the eye of other networks)
  • etc

What horrifies me would be government having direct access to that information. That cannot be a good thing!

Here are some tweets i’ve exchanged with the Director Of Corporate Affairs this morning

BTW any lawyers care to chip in on the previous post?

A Boy’s Tribute To His Father

[After posting the Walt Whitman poem, some of you asked whether I would mind posting the tribute itself. I do not. It follows in its entirety]

In this period of political uncertainty I must thank you all for taking the time to be with us this day.

My tribute will not be to tell you who my father was. I can save you time by telling you if you know my mum, or myself, or any of my brothers ““ then you know my father.

I will however share some memories and thoughts of what my father meant personally to me. I may struggle at some points during this tribute but I beg you to allow me to finish.

There is a poem by the American poet Will Whitman that goes a little something like this:

O Captain! My Captain! Our fearful trip is done;

The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won;

The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,

While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring:

This past Saturday a Great Man left us. A man I considered a hero. A mentor. A teacher. A friend. A role model.

My father.

I was there at the very end as dad breathed his last. Never have I ever felt so broken.

For every boy, it is said, his relationship with his father as he grows transitions as follows

  1. Dad knows everything
  2. Dad knows many things
  3. Dad knows nothing (generally around the teenage years)
  4. Dad knows many things
  5. Dad knows everything

Those of us who have ever been boys (which statistically should be half of you) can verify the accuracy of this.

Those of you who knew my father will totally understand me when I say I skipped straight through to the fifth stage. Dad knows everything. I can say this with every confidence because as of 2nd March 2013, he has yet to prove otherwise.

In addition to the usual things a man is meant to know, my father added to that list Karate, the mouth organ, the guitar, smoking meat, carpentry, plumbing, Kiswahili literature, Arabic, football

Kids today have the luxury of Google and Wikipedia. Me? I asked my father.

Also, again for those of us who used to be small boys, in the playground the universal argument would begin: “My father can beat your father.”

Me? I would clear my throat smugly and that debate would end upon my entry. For my father besides being a tall man (taller than me, as a matter of fact) was also broad of shoulder. And a Karate Black Belt.

However he was as gentle a man as you will ever meet, and in fact my friends used to call him the Gentle Giant.

And while mum was away, this Giant would wake me up, wash me while politely listening to my 6 year old wisdom, make me breakfast and take me to school.

My father was also a man of the people. Those of us here who knew him can attest to that. To this date I remain fascinated at the number of people my dad seemed to know. And those who seemed to know him.

“Dad, I need to get an ID.”

“I think I know a fellow at the Chief’s office “

“Dad, I am meant to travel to Botswana on Wednesday and I don’t have a passport!”

“I think I know a fellow at Immigration “

“Dad, I have been admitted to University at Egerton. But that will mean I lose my job. What do I do?”

“I think I know a fellow at the Joint Admissions Board “

There was even a time when dad was taking us home from school when a police officer waved him down.

As the officer approached, looking very serious my dad smiled and said “. I know this fellow!”

But the event I remember most was one day when heading home from school, former President Moi happened to be passing by. The last car had swept past when to my horror my dad put the car in gear and promptly joined the convoy.

My life flashed before my eyes. (It doesn’t take long when you are 15).

“Is it safe to join the president’s convoy?” I asked.

“We are not joining the president’s convoy,” dad replied cheerfully. “We just happen to be going in the same direction. Besides ” – he pointed at the faces looking back from the last chase car -” I know those fellows!”

Wole Soyinka said “A tiger does not proclaim its tigritude. He pounces.”

That statement always reminds me of my father’s wisdom. My father imparted his wisdom very subtly. So subtly at times that I understand suddenly things he told me decades ago.

Like the time when I was a boy I asked him if he could be my friend.

I remember he looked at me like I had asked him the most outrageous thing in the world and told me emphatically “Oh no no no! Now that I cannot be. Friends you have many. Fathers you don’t have that many. So no, my son. I cannot be your friend because your friends will not cane your bottom! However there will come a time when we will. And we will both know it.”

Of course at the time this went in one ear and out the other. But how true his words came to be some decades later!

Or the time in High School when I was to select a university course, and I asked him whether I should be an engineer.

My father told me “It does not matter what I want! A career is something you will be stuck with for life. So think long and hard what it is you love. Even if it is Animal Husbandry. Let me know and I will organize.”

I can talk your ears off telling you stories of the colossus that is my father. But time will not allow me to do justice.

Walt Whitman’s poem ends thus

My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still;

My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will;

The ship is anchor’d safe and sound, its voyage closed and done;

From fearful trip, the victor ship, comes in with object won;

Shortly after Dad breathed his last, mum said the following to me

“Your father was a wonderful man. He was a good father and he made me very happy. I have no regrets. None at all.”

And that, my friends, is how you clock out.

I find myself in the position of having to fill the enormous shoes my father left behind. For when people now say Mr, they will mean me.

But what better way to honour the legacy of a colossus than try and live the example he set.

[Interlude: at this point I was struggling to finish reading. A burst of intense sadness filled my chest and throat]

This past Saturday a Great Man left us. A man I considered a hero. A mentor. A teacher. A friend. A role model.

Captain, my Captain!

[And here I could contain myself no more. But I had completed reading the tribute to the colossus that was my father]