September 9, 2015

10 Myths About Girls’ Empowerment and Mobile Learning


I had the chance to share some thoughts at UNESCO’s recent Mobile Learning Week. My presentation explored some myths about girls empowerment and mobile learning and offered suggestions of things to think about when designing and implementing programs.

Ideas for the presentation were drawn from research and practitioner experiences (mine and those of others that I’ve talked with and worked with over the past few years). Here’s what I talked about below. Since realities are subjective and complex, and contexts differ immensely around the world, I’m putting these out mainly as discussion starters.

Some seem super obvious and some contradict each other (which may speak to the point that there is no universal truth!), so I’m curious to know what other people think…

Myth 1: Mobile as a stand-alone solution.

Reality: The mobile phone is just one part of the informational and cultural ecosystem. There is a lot of hype about mobile. I think as a sector we are mostly past the idea of mobile as a stand-alone solution, but in case not, it’s the first myth I’d challenge. There is not a lot that a mobile phone can do as a stand-alone tool to empower girls or improve their education and learning.

Things to consider: The mobile phone is the device that is most likely to already be in the hands of your target user – but the possibilities and channels don’t start and end with mobile phones. It’s important to think of the mobile phone as just one part of a much wider informational, social, cultural and educational ecosystem and see where it might fit in to support girls’ learning. It’s likely that mobile phones will be used more outside of the classroom than in – in my experience, I’ve found that schools often don’t allow mobiles to be brought into class. So, it’s more about integrating mobiles as a tool that supports rather than as the sole channel for learning and information sharing.

Myth 2: It’s the technology that’s mobile.

Reality: In most cases, the learner is mobile, too. This is one of the exciting things about technology and learning. It’s something I heard John Traxler say a few years ago, and I thought it was really smart. John said we should really be thinking about mobile learners, not just mobile technology. Learners access and share information in all kinds of ways, at different locations, using different devices or not using devices at all.

Things to consider: Rather than starting with the mobile phone, think about design based on a clear understanding of ‘digital repertoires’ – in other words, user behaviors or patterns that span places and devices based on factors like data capacity, cost, purpose. These repertoires will differ according to culture, sex, economic status, and availability of information points and sources. For example, maybe some girls use Google search to do homework at an Internet café but use their own phone or a borrowed phone for quick, short text reminders or questions to friends about schoolwork. Maybe other girls are not allowed to go to Internet cafés or they feel uncomfortable doing so, and they rely more on their mobile phone and their friends. This was the case in one community near Jakarta that I was in last month. One of the girls talked about her 15-year-old friend:

“She’s too shy to go to the Internet shop…. Boys are always sitting out, calling you to ask ‘where are you going?’ or whistling. She feels too embarrassed to go into the shop because everyone will look at her.”

In a consultation conducted by Plan in 2011, girls in some countries said it was too dangerous to travel to the Internet café, especially at night. When men and boys watch porn and play video games in Internet cafes, girls tend to feel quite uncomfortable. Libraries, if available, may be places where girls go to access Internet because they feel safer. Girls may face reputation risk if they go too often to the Internet café. So in this case, girls may rely on phones.

In some parts of East and West Africa, however, girls with mobile phones may be accused of having ‘sugar daddies’ or selling sex for airtime or nice phones, so the phone also carries reputation risk. All of these situations impact on girls’ communication repertoires, and program designers need to take them into consideration. And perhaps most importantly, ‘girls’ are not a homogeneous group so we always need to unpack which girls, where, when, what, at what age, living where, with what kinds of social or cultural restrictions, etc.

Myth 3: Vulnerable girls don‘t have access to mobiles.

Reality: Many girls with phones are more vulnerable than we think, and more girls that we consider vulnerable are accessing mobiles. This is something that Colman Chamberlain from the Girl Effect’s mobile initiative pointed out. “We often hear that the most vulnerable girls don’t have access to mobile phones,” he says, “but this depends on how we understand and define vulnerability. Many girls with phones are vulnerable, and many vulnerable girls are starting to access mobile. This means we have a real chance to reach and engage with them.”

Things to consider: Age does normally play a role in access to mobiles. Younger girls from lower income families in most countries do not have their own mobile phones. Upper class children may, however, have phones. It really varies. Recent research (unpublished) found that it was common for 14-15 yr olds in Indonesia to have their own phones. In India and Bangladesh, that age was closer to 18. Girls who were no longer in school often had a mobile – some had even dropped out to get jobs in order to purchase a mobile. Sometimes married girls’ husbands purchase them a phone, yet it may be primarily to control and monitor their whereabouts.

When designing programs, it’s really important to take the time to learn whether the girls you’d like to work with own or borrow mobile phones and whether their access is controlled by someone else or if they are free to use a mobile however they’d like. Design for different scenarios and ‘user repertoires’ based on girls’ access and use habits. Don’t make assumptions on which girls access mobiles for what and how based on perceived vulnerability, do the research and you may be surprised when you get into the weeds.

Myth 4: Cost is the biggest barrier to girls’ mobile phone access and use.

Reality: Cost is a barrier, but perhaps not the biggest one. Clearly cost is still a big barrier for the poorest girls. But the unwillingness to invest in a girl’s access to mobile or to information and learning is linked to other aspects like a girl’s position in her family or society. Mobiles are also becoming cheaper, so the cost barrier has been reduced in some ways. Overall, compared to landlines, as Katie Ramsay at Plan Australia notes, mobile is cheaper and that opens up access to information for even the poorest families.

Research conducted this past year in India, Bangladesh and Indonesia, found that in some communities girls have much greater access than assumed, and cost was a lower barrier than originally thought. Parents and gatekeepers were actually a bigger barrier in some countries. For many of us this is a total no-brainer, but I still think it’s worth bringing up.

Things to consider: As already mentioned, the key when developing programs is to dig deep and talk with girls directly to understand and help them to overcome different barriers, whether those are personal, familiar, economic, societal or institutional.

In order to help get past these barriers, mobile-enabled programming or product/service offerings need to have real value to girls as well as their gatekeepers, so that girls’ participation in programs and use of mobiles is seen by gatekeepers as positive. This was shown clearly in a UNESCO girls’ literacy program in Pakistan, where 87% of parents changed from a negative opinion about girls using a mobile phone to a positive perspective by the end of the program, because they saw the utility of the phone for girls’ literacy.

It’s important to do work on educating and changing behaviors of parents. Katie Ramsay also notes that in places where men own the tech, there is a huge opportunity for targeting them to gain their support for girls’ education. So it’s worth re-thinking the role of mobiles in girl-focused programs, especially where girls’ access to mobile is low or controlled. The best use of mobiles for learning may not be ‘delivering content’ to girls via a mobile device. Instead it might be using mobile and other media to target gatekeepers to change their behavior and beliefs around girls’ education and girls’ empowerment.

Myth 5: Girls share their phones.

Reality: Phone sharing brings with it a challenging social power dynamic. Many people in ‘the West’ hold the romantic notion that people in ‘developing countries’ like to share everything and live communally. Now, I’m not saying that girls are not generous, but when it comes to girls and phones, we have not really seen a great desire to share.

In some of the unpublished research conducted in Asia (and previously referenced in this post), girls without phones said that they do borrow phones, often from family members or friends, but they don’t necessarily like doing so. They said that borrowing here and there just isn’t enough to do anything substantial on a phone. Girls described girls who do not have mobile phones as sad and unpopular. They drew girls with phones as happy, popular, and successful. Some girls also described girls with phones as stuck up and selfish and said that girls who have phones don’t share them with girls that don’t have phones.

“A girl with a phone would look down on me, and show off what her phone does. She would let me hold it, but only because she would like to take it back from me again.” – Girl, 18, Dhaka

I was at a school in Cameroon last year, when a big fight broke out because one girl had taken another girl’s phone and thrown it in the toilet. The professor said that fighting over mobile phones was common among students. Phones had been prohibited at school in part to reduce conflicts, and sometimes students ratted each other out for having phones at school. This is not specifically a “mobile phone” problem, it’s a wealth or class or equity issue, but it manifests itself with phones because they are an asset that defines haves and have-nots.

Things to consider: Don’t assume it’s easy for girls to borrow phones. If you find that many of your targeted users for a mobile-enabled initiative are borrowers, then it’s important to design short, to-the-point options for them, because they may have only a few minutes at a time with a mobile. Girls may not share their phones unless there is some kind of incentive for doing so. If you are designing for borrowers, think about rapid communication in bursts, and don’t communicate about anything that would put a girl at social or reputation risk if the person she borrows the phone from should see it.

Myth 6: All girls (& all youth) are tech savvy.

Reality: Many girls are indeed tech savvy, but some are still behind the curve. In many places, girls with phones are way more tech savvy than their parents. And most young people around the world are pretty quick to pick up on technology. But girls’ level of savvy will obviously depend on what they have access to.

Girls I talked with in the urban slums areas of Jakarta were quite tech-adept and had Internet-ready phones, but they still only used Facebook and Google. They also mixed up ‘Facebook’ and ‘Google’ with ‘The Internet’ and did not use email. They were unfamiliar with the concept of an “app”. Girls knew how to search for jobs online (via Google), but they said they had trouble understanding how to fill out online forms to apply for those jobs. So regardless of a girl’s level of tech savvy, in this case, she was still missing certain skills and relevant online content that would have helped her get to the next level of job-seeking.

Things to consider: It’s really important to do your research to understand what technologies and platforms girls are familiar with and be sure to plan for how to engage girls with those that they are unfamiliar with. Basic literacy might also still be a huge issue among adolescent girls in some places.

Basically, the message here again is to avoid making assumptions, to do your research, and to remember that girls are not a homogeneous group. Market research techniques can be helpful to really start understanding nuances regarding which girls do what, where and how on a mobile device.

Myth 7: Girls don’t have time to use mobile phones.

Reality: You might be surprised by which girls find time to spend on a mobile phone. This again really depends on which girls, and where! Girls find the time to use mobile, even if it’s not at the always on-line levels that we find in places like the US and Europe, notes Colman from Girl Effect. Spending time in the communities you’re working with can allow you to find times that girls have free and uncontrolled access.

Jessica Heinzelman from DAI told us that in one project she was working on, they had assumed that girls in more traditional communities and rural geographies would have less access to mobiles. In reality, it was common for girls to be sent on errands with mobiles to places where there was connectivity to contact relatives on behalf of the family, leaving the girls with at least some alone time with the mobile.

Schoolgirls in the slum area of Jakarta that I worked in earlier this year said they checked their Facebook every day. Out of school urban girls checked at least a few times per week, and rural out of school girls also usually managed to borrow a phone to check Facebook quickly now and then.

Things to consider: I’m beating the drum again here about the importance of on-the-ground research and user testing to find out what is happening in a particular context. Alexandra Tyers from GSMA points out that user testing is really a critical piece of any girls and mobile learning effort, and that it can actually be done for a reasonable price. She notes that in her case, “Bangladesh user testing cost $5,000 USD for fifty tests in five different locations around the country. And yet the return on investment by making those necessary changes is likely to be large because making sure the product is right will ensure easy adoption and maximum uptake.”

Myth 8: Mobile phones can’t address girls’ real needs.

Reality: Mobile phones can help address girls’ real needs, but probably not as stand-alone devices, and maybe not as ‘content delivery’ channels. There is a lot of hype around mobile learning and mEducation, and as some presenters talked about at Mobile Learning Week, there is little evidence to help us know how to integrate mobiles in ways that could scale (where appropriate) and offer real results. I sometimes think this is because we are expecting mobile and ICTs in general to do more than they feasibly can.

Depending on the context and situation, where I have seen the greatest opportunity for mobiles is:

  • enabling girls to connect with peers and information
  • allowing girls more opportunities for voicing their opinions
  • linking girls to online support and services
  • linking girls with offline support and services.
  • helping organizations to track and monitor their programs (and hopefully then do a better job of adapting them to girls’ real needs).

Things to consider: It’s really important to think through what the best role for mobile is (if any role at all). Here is where you can (and should) be super creative. You may not get the biggest impact by involving girls as the end user. Rather, the best place might be aiming your mobile component at behavior change with gatekeepers. Or sending text messages that link a girl to a service or opportunity that lives offline. It might be getting feedback on the school system or using mobile to remind parents about school meetings.

Myth 9: Mobile phones are dangerous.

Reality: Many girls and women say a mobile helps them feel safer, more independent, and more successful. The 2011 Cherie Blair/GSMA study on women and mobiles noted that 93% of women said a mobile made them feel safer and 84% felt more independent. Tech can also offer a certain level of anonymity for girls that can be beneficial in some cases. “Tech is good for girls because they can be anonymous. If you go to the bank, everyone can see you’re a girl. But if you start a business online, they don’t know that you’re a girl, so you don’t have to deal with the stereotypes,” according to Tuulia Virha, formerly of Plan Finland. Parents may also see mobiles as a tool to help them keep their children safe.

Things to consider: Mobiles can help with an increased sense of security, safety and autonomy, depending on context and situation. However, and this is what I’ll say next, mobiles also bring risk with them, and most girls we talked to for our research were aware of obvious risks – meeting strangers, exposure to pornography, pedophiles and trafficking – but not so aware of other risks like privacy. They were also not very aware of how to reduce their risk levels. So in order to really reap the safety and empowerment rewards that mobiles can bring, initiatives need to find ways to improve girls’ digital literacy and digital safety. Data security is another issue, and organizations should develop responsible data policies so that they are not contributing to putting girls at risk.

And that brings us to the other side of the coin – the myth that mobiles make girls safer.

Myth 10: Mobiles make girls safer.

Reality: Mobiles can put girls at risk. That sense of being safer with a mobile in hand can be a false one, as I noted above. Dirk Slater, from Tactical Technology Collective noted, “A big issue of working with adolescent girls is their lack of awareness of how the information they share can be stored and used. It’s important to educate girls. Look at how much information you find out about a person through social media, and what does that mean about how much information someone else can find about them.”

Things to consider: Institutions should aim to mitigate risks and help to improve girls’ digital security and safety.

Girls face safety risks on mobile at a number of levels, including:

  • Content
  • Contact
  • Data privacy and security
  • Legal and political risk (in some places they may face backlash simply for seeking out an education)
  • Financial risk (spam, hacking, spending money they don’t have on airtime)
  • Reputation risk (if they participate on social networks or speak out)

It’s also key for organizations working with girls and mobile to develop ethical policies and procedures to mitigate risks at various levels.

And that’s that for the top 10 myths! Curious to know what you think about those, and if there are other myths you find in your work with girls, mobile and learning…

September 9, 2015

Destined To Disrupt: Free Home Solar Kits Could Wreck Kenya’s Off-Grid Market


Plans by SkyPower, the world’s largest developer and owner of utility-scale solar projects, to donate two million free home solar kits in Kenya is likely to send shock waves in the off-grid market in the East African nation.

In July, during the Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) attended by US President Barack Obama, the photovoltaic energy company signed a land mark $2.2 billion agreement with the Kenyan government to develop a 1 gigawatt solar project.

“This monumental grant marks the largest single commitment in history, which provides an unprecedented solar solution to give power to the people of Kenya and communities without access to basic power,” Kerry Adler, president and chief executive of SkyPower said in a statement.

“We are proud to help empower Kenya to harness the abundant power of the sun to improve the lives and economic prospects of its people, ultimately positioning Kenya to become a renewable energy hub for Africa.”

Kenya, where over 87 percent of households are not connected to the national electric grid that’s monopolized by a state-run power company, has become one of the beacons of off-grid connections with companies like M-Kopa Solar, a social-entrepreneurship startup that uses solar to reach the most remote places with electricity, making headway.

While solar has been donated in the country of about 45 million people by relief agencies, analysts say SkyPower’s bulk donations program could wreck havoc to solar startups as it would change customer’s perception of solar.

According to Daniel Tomlinson, an access to energy entrepreneur and a 2012 Echoing Green fellow, donation of solar kits to Kenyan households would compromise the after-sales service component of the off-grid solar concept, which could leave “customers with either inferior products or, over time, faulty products that stop working and spoil the market concept of solar in general.”

“Systematic reductions on retail prices, and especially free give-aways, signal to consumers that they do not need to pay full retail price — or pay at all — for these goods, and consumers will accordingly hold out for reduced-cost or free goods in the future, regardless of whether they will ever come,” the Global Off-Grid Lighting Association said in a recent issue of the Opinion Brief.

“While there may be a short term benefit for selected users, these reductions or give-aways will result in such adoption being less likely to be sustained and broader adoption of solar off-grid lighting being significantly hampered,” it added.

SkyPower, a company started by a Lehman Brothers Holding survivor, Kerry Adler, is his plan to build a $12 billion solar empire across the world and Africa, where most people are not connected, fit well into his jig saw plan.

Bloomberg estimates that the company will have more renewable energy projects in the world than any other operator in the world is it complete all its planned initiatives come to fruition. It currently has23 projects with a total capacity of 300 megawatts.

Africa’s off-grid revolution has attracted of companies, both local and foreign, with initiatives such as ‘Power Africa’ by President Obama and ‘Lighting Africa’ by Senegalese-American R&B music singer and songwriter Akon, jumping on to the band wagon.

“Power Africa supports bringing increased electricity access to Kenya through a market-based approach,” President Obama said in his speech during the GES in Nairobi.

The International Finance Corporation (IFC), which has invested in Akon’s Lighting Africa initiative said that while free solar products “can assist people that may not otherwise purchase a solar product, but, if not managed well, they can harm the entire supply chain and the market.”

– See more at:

September 7, 2015

The best apps for student life

 iPhone and Android apps

Communication technology makes everything (well, almost everything) about being a student easier, from being in the right place at the right time and handing in work punctually to keeping track of your finances and coordinating a thriving social life.

There are videophone apps, revision apps and organisation apps, as well as the usual social offering. “While ‘fad’ apps provide a laugh, it’s the utility apps that stick around – instant shopping on Amazon, secure mobile banking, fitness gamifications or loyalty apps,” says Jack Wallington, community director at online forum The Student Room.

Here’s a rundown of the best student apps to download:

Personal organisation:

Google Calendar (iPhone and Android) scores highly among students as a good generic planner.

Self Control for Study (Android) will block other apps – social media and so on – for a set length of time, so you won’t be tempted during lectures.

If you’re new in town, Moovit (iPhone and Android) will tell you the fastest way to get around on public transport, as well as giving local live timetables and updates.

OS MapFinder (iPhone and Android) from Britain’s Ordnance Survey works offline too and helps with navigating new places, while The Trainline and Tickety Split can offer some seriously chunky savings on public transport.

If you haven’t time to do your washing and are feeling flush, Laundrapp (iPhone and Android) will allow you to outsource your laundry with a door-to-door service from as little as £2.50 (available in London, Birmingham and Edinburgh).

And if you’re having trouble waking up and getting out of bed in the mornings, then Alarmy (Sleep If U Can) (iPhone and Android) will only switch off a really annoying alarm after you’ve completed certain tasks – shaking the phone a set number of times, or taking a picture of your bathroom sink or front door, for instance.

Don’t make his mistake – get up in time with Alarmy (Sleep If U Can)  Photo: ALAMY

Security and money:

One of the most common reasons students contact the Student Loans Company is because they’ve forgotten passwords, and there are lots to remember at university – intranet, library, accommodation management and online banking.

Students can keep passwords, credit card details and other virtual identities safe through Dashlane (iPhone and Android), which uses advanced encryption. Students use a master password to log in to synced websites or make a payment without having to remember each password.

The creators of Mobile-pocket (iPhone and Android), a simple loyalty card app that helps organise individual cards and make it easier to collect points, say it could help save students up to £100 a year – many loyalty card users forget them or don’t claim points. Students can simply scan barcodes of their membership cards to create a digital, scanable version for use in shops.

And if you’re scared of losing your mobile during a night on the town, Avast Free Mobile Security (Android) offers malware protection and anti-theft and privacy tools.

piggybank and savingsWise up – save yourself money and download Mobile-pocket  Photo: GETTY


An award-winning app accused of making student life too easy, RefME (iPhone and Android) certainly takes the sweat out of one of the most painstaking and tedious parts of student life – referencing books and publications, and The Student Room users rave about it. At the press of a button, students can scan a book’s barcode or enter the URL of an article to generate a citation, which it then saves and syncs in the Cloud – allowing students to create, edit and manage pieces of work across different devices. “A life-saver,” is how one user describes the app.

And a host of apps now allow students to record whole lectures and listen (and listen again) at their own pace, including Lecture Capture (iPhone) and LectureRecordings (Android).

Share Your Board (iPhone) allows students to photograph and store an image of a whiteboard from any angle, while Studious (Android) silences your phone in class and allows you to store your schedule and locations, as well as track your assignments.

When it comes to revising, StudyBlue (iPhone and Android) helps students create and share handy flashcards.

Brain in Hand (iPhone and Android) is designed for students with autism who might find it difficult to cope with social interactions, manage time or deal with timetable changes. It offers a secure website allowing autistic students to get access to personalised support and share information with carers and parents; during trials, users’ anxiety levels dropped.

Higher education, university, students, lecture, study, studying, revision, exams, pupil, student, learning, graduate, graduationLecture Capture can help you make the most of your classes  Photo: ALAMY


If healthy lifestyle apps don’t make an impression, Drunk Mode (iPhone and Android) will spare student blushes in the wake of a big night out and is a favourite among users of The Student Room. You can block certain people for up to 12 hours and only get in contact if you’re sufficiently “with it” to answer a maths question – no more random texting of exes, crushes and so on. Users can also enter a list of “Drinking buddies” – also fellow Drunk Mode users – and track their whereabouts.

Sobrr (iPhone and Android) app lets you live in the moment, but any pictures and comments your post on a night out will self-destruct after 24 hours.

Drinkaware: Track and Calculate Units (iPhone and Android), meanwhile, gives users an easy way to monitor alcohol intake.

September 7, 2015

The Best Apps and Technology You Can Get With a Student Discount This Year

Going to college can feel like a never-ending list of ways to spend money—on tuition, books, housing, and everything you need to go to school. But there is some relief! Many of your favorite software providers and services offer generous academic discounts to students.

Here are some lesser-known deals you can get as a student, along with some old favorites.

Apps and Tools

Office 365 Education is free for students, and includes Office Online (Word, PowerPoint, Excel, and OneNote) with 1TB of OneDrive storage as long as you have a valid academic email address. Some schools also provide for the full applications, available when you sign up.

LastPass, one of our favorite ways to manage your passwords, gives university students six months of its premium service for free. Even if you’ve already registered with an email other than your academic address, you can still enter your school email to get the upgrade.

Good news if you need some tunes: Spotify has a student rate for its Premium service. It’s half-off: $4.99 per month for ad-free music streaming.

Avast is our #1 pick for Antivirus software on Windows, and though their desktop app is already free, they also offer their business-grade security software for free to students and schools if you’re managing more complicated network security.

You Need a Budget, voted as one of your five favorite personal finance tools, is free for college students too. You can use your free budgeting app to tabulate how much money I’m saving you!

If you’re studying in a creative field, Adobe’s Creative Cloud suite is 60% off for students and teachers. That’s $199.00 for a full year. (That might seem steep, but you get access to their entire suite of professional software, so it’s pretty good deal if you’d use it all!)

If you’re designing or animating, Autodesk is very generous with their academic licenses: AutoCAD, Maya, 3ds Max, and more are all free for academic use. As usual, you just need a valid university email address. (And even then, I recently downloaded some software without using a school address by simply assuring them it was for research purposes.)

Discounted Hardware

You’re probably familiar with Apple’s relationship with academia, and it still holds true: Apple offers discounts to students and educators…plus free Beats headphones with some purchases. They’re not great, but for free? Eh.

Apple isn’t the only one, of course. These days, pretty much all of major hardware brands offer some kind of student discount: Microsoft, Best Buy, Lenovo, and Dell all offer student discounts on hardware. Even if you’re not buying from those particular vendors, it’s always worth asking your retailer of choice if there are any special offers for students.

Moreover, many universities have relationships with hardware and software manufacturers, so it’s always a good idea to check your school’s bookstore to see if they offer any deals of their own. Often, you can get even better deals from your school (or bundles with things like flash drives and cases). You may also be able to get software licenses like Windows super cheaply. So always check with your school first!

Subscriptions and Other Services

When I was in school, Amazon Prime was free for students. It was a glorious time to be alive and shop online without ever leaving my dorm room. And though it’s no longer free, fear not! Prime is still heavily discounted for students at only $49/year. That’s 50% off the normal price, which is already one of the best deals in tech. Sign up with your school email here.

The New York Times offers a discounted rate to students. The exact price varies on what kind of digital access you want, but it’s all 50% off. The Wall Street Journal has a student discount too—as much as 75% off.

And if you happen to be shipping a lot of packages, FedEx has a Student Discount Club. Flash your student ID and you’ll save 20%-30% when sending a document or package. All the cool kids are in the FedEx student discount club. [Update: Some are saying that the discount only applies to the purchase of goods, not shipment charges.]

These aren’t the only people that offer student discounts, but they are some of the life-hackiest you’ll find this year. There are a million other retailers with different kinds of student discounts, though. The Simple Dollar rounded up 60 of their favorites here, and Rather-Be-Shopping has a long list of back-to-school coupons to help save a few bucks. Check out StudentRate if you’re looking for a particular retailer. A little research will go a long way when it comes to finding where you can get a discount while pursuing your academic career. It never hurts to ask!

September 7, 2015

Vote for @akirachix in the Microsoft Upgrade your world Competition

AkiraChix is participating in the Microsoft Upgrade your world Competition.

Ten organisations in each country will receive cash investments (US$50,000) and technology
Please support them by tagging @akirachix and the hashtags ‪#‎UpgradeYourWorldKE‬ and ‪#‎Vote‬ on your social media streams.
#UpgradeYourWorld: Cast your vote for a local nonprofit in your country.

Is there a local nonprofit in your community that’s working to upgrade the world?

Microsoft is supporting nonprofits who are improving their world in these 10 countries—Australia, China, France, Germany, India, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, the United Kingdom and the United States. Ten organizations in each country will receive cash investments ($50,000) and technology. We’ve found our first five, but need your help to select the remaining five nonprofits in each country.

Tell us about a local nonprofit making a difference in your area through Facebook, Twitter or Instagram and help choose.*

September 3, 2015

Galaxy S6 Edge+ now in Kenya, with exceptional video capabilities

image_article_fullSimon Kariithi (left), Samsung Business Leader IT and Mobile Division together with Robert Ngeru, Samsung East Africa Vice President and COO go through some features of the newly launched Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+

Samsung launched the Galaxy S6 edge+ in the Kenyan market, with a focus on its camera’s video taking capabilities.

As social networking becomes more ubiquitous, consumers expect to share the moments of their lives through photos and video and Samsung is enabling that desire with improved video capabilities.

These include Steady Video, which provides Video Digital Image Stabilization on both the front and rear cameras for sharp, crisp video on-the-go, and Video Collage Mode, which allows users to record and edit short videos easily in various frames and effects.

“The technology that Samsung has deployed on this device is a result of current market needs and rapidly changing lifestyles of smartphone users who have an appetite for information and content,” said Samsung East Africa VP and COO, Robert Ngeru.

The Galaxy S6 edge+ also feature 4K(UHD) video filming and Live Broadcast, which lets users instantly live streams Full HD video straight from the phone to any individual, group of contacts, or even the public through YouTube Live.

Anyone who receives the YouTube link from a Galaxy S6 Edge+ user is able to enjoy live stream video from his or her smartphone, tablet, PC or Smart TV with YouTube connectivity.

Galaxy S6 edge+ users will also benefit from Samsung’s advanced camera system, including Quick Launch (double click the home button to launch the camera in less than one second), Auto Real-time High Dynamic Range (HDR), Smart Optical Image Stabilization (OIS) and brand-new filters.

“Functionality and easy to use capabilities continue to form the core of Samsung’s design philosophy. The S6 edge+ represent the barriers we continue to push in order to create new technologies and enhance user experiences particularly for emerging markets like Kenya,” said Mr. Ngeru.

With increased 4GB RAM, the Galaxy S6 Edge+ offers powerful capacity and processing power, enabling users to enjoy more seamless multi-tasking. The device also features multimedia capabilities with deep screen contrast and details through Samsung’s 5.7-inch Quad HD Super AMOLED display.

The phone features Samsung’s fast wired and wireless charging technology and the embedded wireless charging technology is compatible with virtually any wireless pad available today. With wired charging, the device can be fully charged in approximately 90 minutes, and through Samsung’s latest wireless charger, it can be fully charged in approximately 120 minutes.

In addition, Samsung’s Galaxy S6 Edge+ features enhanced security features with KNOX Active Protection (built into devices / out of the box) and My KNOX (app with simple/fast setup) to further protect sensitive personal and work data.

The S6 Edge+ comes with 32GB or 64GB storage options available in White Pearl, Black Sapphire, Gold Platinum and Silver Titanium and both are available in all Samsung Experience stores and Authorized dealers.

September 3, 2015

Airtel demands a share of Safaricom Internet frequency

Posted  Wednesday, September 2  2015 at  20:33

Airtel Kenya has demanded a share of the 4G broadband spectrum allocated to Safaricom by the Communications Authority of Kenya (CA), arguing that it is unfair for the regulator to allow the dominant telecommunications operator to launch the high-speed Internet service ahead of its competitors.

The CA, in a gazette notice published on August 19, has said that it intends to issue Safaricom with a licence to operate on the 800HZ frequency, the technical definition for the high-speed (4G) Internet spectrum.

The licence could enable Safaricom to offer high-speed Internet to its customers, as well as broadband-based TV broadcasts.

The CA has said that any objection to the intended move should be filed at its headquarters within 30 days from the date of publication of the notice.

Airtel Kenya CEO Adil El Youssefi said in an interview Wednesday that his company did not agree with the process that was followed in allocating what it termed as the best 4G spectrum to Safaricom, arguing it would entrench the company’s dominant position in the telecommunications sector.

“There is no (4G) sharing agreement yet, which is a great concern for us and our position is that Safaricom should not be allowed to launch commercial services in the 800 MHz spectrum band before the sharing agreement is approved by the regulators and signed with the other operators,” Mr Adil said in response to the Business Daily queries.

Telkom Kenya said in a statement that it would ask the industry regulator “to advise on the mechanisms to be used to allocate (these) frequencies to all players in the market.

“We firmly believe that all players in the sector should be accorded equally opportunity as we have each heavily invested in this market,” said Telkom Kenya.

Airtel holds that Safaricom should not be allowed use the 800MHz to commercially rollout the 4G network before an agreement by other operators who also plan to launch a similar joint platform is signed.

The proposed allocation of the licence follows the expiry of a three-month trial period window offered to Safaricom by the CA on February 9, 2015, which allowed it to launch its 4G network in some parts of Nairobi and Mombasa.

The 800 MHz band, according to Airtel, enables an operator to roll out 4G services in a less costly manner because it provides good network coverage with fewer radio infrastructure (radio base stations ) than the 1800 MHz, the other broadband spectrum.

It also provides better indoor coverage than the 1800 MHz band, said Airtel.

Sharing the spectrum, Airtel says, enables each operator to control their own quality of services instead of buying wholesale from other operators, in which case a telecommunications operator has to rely on the quality of service of a competitor.

CA director-general Francis Wangusi said that the allocation of the frequency licence was tied to the National Police Security Project issued to Safaricom and that the leading mobile operator will have to pay a license fee of $56.25 million (about Sh5.6 billion) before it is issued with the 8OOMHz frequencies.

September 3, 2015

Safaricom allocated license for 800mhz – The CA clarifies

On Wed, Sep 2, 2015 at 8:25 PM

Hello Listers,
CA notes the issues raised by members on the list on the above subject.  Allow us to  clarify the matter.

Yes it is true that Safaricom has been granted a license for Frequency in the 800MHz band. The award was tied to the security tender .  It should be noted that when the Government of Kenya (GOK)  approached Safaricom to rollout the National  Survelillance, Communications and Control system, Safaricom in return negotiated with GOK for the assignment of the 4G frequencies in the 800 MHz band. This is the reason there was no competitive bidding in the process.  It is also the understanding that the network will be  shared amongst different players, a fact that will mitigate the competition issues that might arise.  The frequency fee payable by Safaricom for these frequencies is USD 56.25 million.

Hope this shades some light into the issue.

Assistant Director/Communications and External Affairs
Communications Authority of Kenya

September 3, 2015

Proposed Laws To Protect Country Critical Infrastructure Are Unveiled

Members of the public can access the draft document on and send their contributions to

cipICTA CIP Handover to CS ICT

Tuesday, 1st September, 2015, 

The Legislation is contained in the Critical Infrastructure Protection Bill to be presented to parliament aimed at deterring the destruction, damages or vandalism of key infrastructures

The Government will soon set up a special unit to protect Critical infrastructure in the country. The unit is proposed by a bill formulated to look into the protection of Critical Infrastructure, and will be domiciled at the Ministry of Interior and Coordination of National Government. This is aimed at ensuring full coordination as well as enforcement of the regulations in both national and county government.

The unit is tasked with the responsibility of coordinating, approving, designing, planning, deploying, and maintaining crucial infrastructure with powers to issue penalties to defaulters. The draft bill has also proposed creation and maintenance of critical infrastructure register with a database of all infrastructures that stakeholders can refer to.

“Our development and attraction of investors hinges on the protection of our critical infrastructure. That’s how we ensure fuel moves from Mombasa to other parts of the country, detect and act on terrorism threats or communicate. Better coordination will lead to better investment and fair prices transferred to the mwananchi,” said Dr Fred Matiang’i Cabinet Secretary, Ministy of ICT.

According to sources, the Government and private sector players lose an estimated 2 billion shillings annually arising from various forms of damage and degradation to infrastructure in Kenya.

“This figure does not include indirect losses such as loss of business or losses arising from the denial of citizens of essential services, which would aggravate the situation,” the CS explained. He was speaking at a media briefing where the taskforce tasked with developing the bill handed over the Draft Infrastructure Protection Bill to him. Dr Matiang’i will then present the bill to the Attorney General for refining before being passed over to Cabinet and Parliament for discussion and enactment and will become law after the Presidential assent. It’s expected to be ready for Parliament before Christmas.

Critical Infrastructure Assets are identified as physical and virtual assets or facilities, owned by either private or public entities which are essential to the provision of vital services, and which if destroyed, degraded or rendered unavailable, would impact on the social or economic wellbeing of the nation or affect Kenya’s ability to conduct national defense and security. They cover crucial assets in electricity, roads and infrastructure, Information, Communication and technology, Security and energy sectors.

“We have benchmarked with other countries around the world and we are certain this bill will address the many challenges experienced by stakeholders,” reported Alice Kariuki, the Chairperson of the Taskforce and the Director Regulatory Affairs, Airtel Africa.

Once in force, the Inspector General of police will have special mandate to provide for the supervision, surveillance and prosecution of those who destroy these critical assets.

The highest penalty for those who bridge the law is a fine of not less than five million shillings or an imprisonment for a term of not less than ten years.

“We will be raising awareness among Kenyans on the need to safeguard the assets. There will be personal liability for those who willingly on unwillingly damage critical infrastructure for example knocking down traffic lights,” offered Ms Kariuki.

The critical infrastructure sectors have faced tremendous challenges that have undermined their efforts in delivering services to the people of Kenya. Some have no legal framework guiding their development while others lack the inter-ministerial or inter-agency implementation mechanism that would assist them maximize on each other’s strengths. Still others are competitors and cannot be expected to work in harmony. The challenges that cut across the sectors include:

  • Missing or weak laws to harmonize design, planning, deployment and management of critical infrastructure thereby making it easy for destruction and incidental damages of critical infrastructure.
  • Man – made activities such as vandalism, terrorism, Fraud through illegal connections, illegal acquisitions, network piracy and spectrum interferences through jammers; encroachment on water towers and way-leaves especially by contractors/developers
  • Inadequate penalties for offences in the sectors.
  • Natural causes derived from climate change such as floods
  • Lack of skilled workforce to support the protection of critical infrastructure.
  • Lack of coordination and required attention to critical infrastructure.

The legislation proposes that the unit ensures the smooth implementation of critical infrastructure by developing standards to be followed before any critical infrastructure program is implemented. These standards, will stipulate rules and regulations to be followed by all those planning to put up critical infrastructure.

Some of the main functions of the agency, to be headed by a Director and constituting council members from both public and private entities include:

  • identify and designate critical infrastructure assets;
  • implement strategies and measures for the protection of critical infrastructure;
  • establish an integrated database of information on critical infrastructure;
  • maintain a register of all the assets and locations declared as critical infrastructure;
  • coordinate the planning, development and implementation of security measures and strategies for the protection of critical infrastructure;
  • conduct research and gap analysis to ensure continuous development in matters relating critical infrastructure;
  • prepare and implement critical infrastructure programmes;
  • categorize and register different classes of critical infrastructure;
  • deploy relevant security measures for the protection of critical infrastructure;
  • advise and make recommendations to the Committee on matters relating to critical infrastructure; and perform any other function related to the implementation of this Act.

Members of the public can access the draft document on and send their contributions to

September 3, 2015

Intel Overhauls Chips in Bid to Revive PC Sales

As the world turns to mobile, PC sales have been especially bad this year. Intel is betting that its new Skylake chips, which are faster and require less power, will be powerful enough to revive flagging PC numbers. Gizmodo has a comprehensive breakdown of the details that matter to consumers, and Benedict Evans explains why PCs are probably doomed regardless in a straightforward and thorough presentation from last year.