Kenya: Not Such a Good Week for ICT and Telecoms
Friday, 20 January 2012
Not such a good start to the year for corporates and government alike:

103 GoK websites hacked

CIO Magazine were among the first to break the news that hacker in Indonesia had hacked 103 Kenyan government websites, amongst them the treasury website. Not that this is new: The police website, for example, had been hacked a couple of times already. The government was roundly criticised by the ICT industry for the slow and seemingly confused reaction. One critical point was that a large number of websites are hosted on the same Treasury server, and the local ICT industry in particular was exasperated by the gulf between the Kenyan government’s professed ICT ambitions – becoming an outsourcing centre, developing a local ICT industry, providing public services online and through mobile – and its seeming inability to look after the basics in its own ICT management. Kenyans are an active and vocal online community, so GoK caught plenty of flack in social media.

‘Google, what were you thinking?’

And egg on the mighty Google’s face, too: Mocality CEO Stefan Magdalinski posted a long blog entry in which he described a sting operation through which Mocality found out that Google employees – or possibly staff from a subcontracted firm? – pretended to work with Mocality and tried to sell a Google product to Mocality clients:

‘Since October, Google’s GKBO [Getting Kenyan Businesses Online] appears to have been systematically accessing Mocality’s database and attempting to sell their competing product to our business owners. They have been telling untruths about their relationship with us, and about our business practices, in order to do so. As of January 11th, nearly 30% of our database has apparently been contacted.

Furthermore, they now seem to have outsourced this operation from Kenya to India.

When we started this investigation, I thought that we’d catch a rogue call-centre employee, point out to Google that they were violating our Terms and conditions (sections 9.12 and 9.17, amongst others), someone would get a slap on the wrist, and life would continue.

I did not expect to find a human-powered, systematic, months-long, fraudulent (falsely claiming to be collaborating with us, and worse) attempt to undermine our business, being perpetrated from call centres on 2 continents.’

Google reacted within a day and issued a statement in which they said:

‘We were mortified to learn that a team of people working on a Google project improperly used Mocality’s data and misrepresented our relationship with Mocality to encourage customers to create new websites. We’ve already unreservedly apologised to Mocality. We’re still investigating exactly how this happened, and as soon as we have all the facts, we’ll be taking the appropriate action with the people involved.’

So far, there had been no further explanation, and not just Stefan Magdalinski has a few more questions. The incident even made it into the Economist blog pages.

Mocality owners MIH, a subsidiary of South African Naspers, are also the owners of Dealfish, a classifieds website. Dealfish – and many other classifieds and auction sites – recently received competition from Google launching its free Google Trader platform.

Airtel’s 3G: Now you see it, now don’t?
Business journalist Larry Madowo, an anchor at the Nation Media Group’s NTV, reminded Airtel in a blog post that they had promised 3G at the end of the first quarter of 2011. So far, that hasn’t happened.

Airtel followed up with Larry and responded:
‘Airtel has introduced major innovative business model changes in the last year. Our Networks and IT platforms are positioning themselves for stability and excellent quality. We will focus on being “the best quality network in Kenya” and fully leverage on this to provide our customers with the best quality experience.’

Not that Larry was impressed with this response: ‘Basically, this is PR-speak for saying nothing.’

The Star also contacted Airtel and cites Shivan Bhargava, Airtel Kenya Chief Operating Officer, who said that the 3G service will be introduced by the end of the first quarter – in 2012, this time, not 2011.

Both Orange and Airtel received a hefty discount on their 3G fee: Safaricom paid USD25m, whereas the other two only had to pay USD10m. Market development had been given as an explanation for this preferential treatment, but the massive reduction does not seem to have speeded up the 3G rollout, at least not in Airtel’s case.

And some staff movements: After former Airtel Kenya CEO René Meza left to join Vodacom in Tanzania as their new CEO, Airtel lost another two staff to Vodacom’s Tanzania operation.

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