Monthly Archives June 2019

How to Create a Post on WordPress

Posted on 1 min read

Creating a post on WordPress is easy, but you need to know how to do it for it to be easy. Here I outline the basic process from scratch (I could have titled it ‘Creating a WordPress post for dummies’).

Note that the process of creating a page is almost similar.

Here are the steps:

  • Go to the WordPress login page of your blog/website. Assuming that your blog/website is mugendi.com, your login page will be www.mugendi.com/wp-admin
  • Once there, enter your username and your password.
  • This will lead you to the dashboard which looks like the image below. This is your default landing page when you log in to the back end, and you need to familiarize yourself with the page.
  • There are two ways to start creating a post while here.
    1. You can click on the Posts link on the left side of the screen and click on New.
    2. You can also click on the + New link at the top of the page and select Post.
  • You will land on the page where you can start writing!


Kenya’s problem with Cashless Transport

Posted on 3 min read

When Uber landed in Nairobi – one of the World’s most dynamic cities, – they realized their card payment system was not popular. This led to Nairobi becoming the second city in the world where Uber introduced cash payment option, after Hyderabad. The single move tripled Uber’s growth in Nairobi in just two months.

A year earlier, the Kenyan government had tried to force a cashless fare system in the public service vehicles, through legislation. This was in an attempt to bring order in the industry, although the bigger motivation was the taxes that could be netted if the 2 billion USD industry became more transparent. The idea brought in big guns like Google and MasterCard, in partnership with local firms such as Safaricom, KCB and Equity Bank. The initiative flopped dismally.

What is the problem with cashless payment in a country that leads the world when it comes to mobile payments and a city that is known to be good in adopting innovations?

The cashless transport initiative was designed to solve a problem that only existed to some people, not all stake holders. The government was interested in taxes. The public service owners were interested in creating a form of accountability from their employees (drivers and turnboys). The tech companies were interested in earning some revenues. The civil societies wanted to eliminate bribery that is given in form of cash. But there were three main stakeholders who might have nothing to gain; public service vehicle operators, traffic laws enforcers, and the passengers.

The Problem

The public service vehicle operators are paid by the vehicle owners, but also pay themselves from the money they collect. This motivates them to work harder, break rules, and even carry excess passengers. The fact that the owner cannot tell how much money they collect makes it easy for them to withhold some money. Introducing a cashless system would work against them.

For the traffic police, their main work on the roads is to collect bribes. Getting cash out of the way means that they have nothing to eat. As the people who were supposed to oversee the enforcement of these laws, they had too much to lose if the project was successful

The third stakeholder were the passengers. First, this was not a major problem being solved, because majority of them were okay paying in cash. In any case, only short distance public vehicles require you to pay during the journey. Majority of the long distance vehicles require one to pay in advance while booking. In any case, using a card meant having an extra tool to carry or forget, and a need to monitor the balance. It would take a lot of effort to change the culture and instill a habit of cashless payment.

With that, the project collapsed.

Way forward

There is still hope that one day Kenya will implement a cashless transport system. Rwanda is successfully doing this, and this can be a place to benchmark.

One place that can be used to pilot and run the system is in the proposed BRT transport. The passengers will be motivated enough to use the cashless system because they will be benefiting from a faster means of transport. Once successful, it will be possible to implement the system elsewhere.

To deal with public service operators, a different mode of remuneration can be implemented, where a commission based salary is implemented. This would reduce the need for secrecy in the earnings, and make them more open to accepting a cashless system.


From Fake News to DeepFakes

Posted on 3 min read

Stories created to deliberately misinform or deceive readers are common. The traditional name for such stories was ‘lies’. However, in a post truth world, the correct name for them is now fake news. Fake news has been around for ages, but I bet it is one Donald Trump who popularized the phrase, and almost gave it a new meaning. We can easily detect fake news when it does not agree with what we believe, but miss it when it seems to reinforce our own believes and stereotypes.

The problem of fake news has been prevalent in elections and influencing the masses all over the world. People have died in the hands (or words) of fake news, elections have been won and lost, and some people have built businesses that are majorly powered by fake news. With social media, the impact of fake news has been felt far and wide as algorithms and adverts work to deliver information to where there is likely to be more clicks and likes.

But in what seems to make fake news look like child play, we now have Deepfakes. This is a technology that allows one to make a video of anyone, saying anything. It is the Photoshop of video, and can be used to make almost anybody say anything. The technology involves use of software that learns how a subject makes specific sounds, the facial expressions that accompany them, and a 3D facial model of the subject. Armed with that, the software can create a footage of the subject saying anything that has been fed into it.

Various people have been victims of deepfakes. Celebrities are the ones that are majorly targeted, with several having been featured in fake sex tapes. There are videos of drunk Nancy Pelosi, Mark Zuckerberg saying that the more people use Facebook, the more Facebook owns them, and even Barack Obama saying nasty things. It is now easy to produce a video of a politician inciting violence, a company executive claiming that their product is defective, or a person from a minority group supporting terrorism. Unfortunately, most people cannot identify fake news, and will stand even a worse fate when it comes to identifying fake videos.

The problem posed by this technology is that it will make it harder for anyone to believe anything that is seen on video. If I can make a politician say anything I want on video, then it means no video should be believed as authentic. The reality is no longer real. The implication is that people will never believe anything at all. This will also cause people to believe only the ‘truth’ that aligns with their beliefs or preconceived ideas. It will become harder to pass a message across, as none will be believable.

What are the solutions?

Currently, there are people working to combat these deepfakes. There are tech startups and labs that are creating tools to detect fake videos. These will prove useful in future when fake videos arise that need to be authenticated.

The mainstream media will also need to find a way of authenticating anonymous clips provided to them. This could involve tracking the sharing of a file and edit history from the source of the video, something which blockchain technology will help. The weakest link lies in the human nature to want to click and share any juicy stories. This is what keeps the social media alive, and fuels fake news and rumors. People will need to be more skeptical about that unbelievable video that we are so tempted to share, and instead, find out the truth behind it.


Why Customer Care Sucks

Posted on 3 min read

If you have lived long enough, you know that customer care sucks!

I am a client of the three biggest banks in Kenya, and I have come to hate their customer care service. However, I need the banks, so I have nowhere to run.

In the first bank, getting anything done takes hours of queuing. Getting an ATM card replaced just takes ages.

In the second bank, I recently queued for an hour to replace a card, then they asked me to bring a copy of my tax PIN certificate. I tried to give them a soft copy but they could have none of it. I had to go out, get somewhere to print, then come and queue again.

In the third bank, last time I went to withdraw money from over the counter they said that my account did not have a passport photo. “No big deal.  I am here in person. Let’s add one,” I said. The response was that was not possible, and I needed to go to the branch where I opened the account to have that fixed. Only after threatening to close the account did a manager intervene.

Mobile phone customer care sucks. I had to replace my SIM card twice, and pay customer care center a visit before they realized that the reason my SIM card was not able to receive a 4G signal was because of a ‘small error’ on their side.

You might also know that the first thing the Telcos customer care attendants tell you is to try restarting your phone, even when you have clearly told them that you have restarted it 72 times.

Have you ever tried contacting Paypal, Facebook or Google? You are likely to be attended to by a robot. Paypal once closed my account due to a non-existent transaction, and my attempt to appeal was always responded to with the automated message that their decision was final. Facebook erroneously charged me twice for a transaction, which they denied. When I reversed the first transaction which they claimed was not successful, they sent me a warning that any reversal of transaction would lead to my account being closed.

But why is customer care a problem? Because it is hard. First, I do not need any customer service help when everything is OK. When something is wrong, I try and figure it out. When I cannot fix it, I turn to customer care support. With that, customer care ends up doing the most difficult tasks possible.

Second, customer care is just a necessary evil. If my bank had only ten clients, they would know us by our faces and our names. They would solve all our problems on phone. They would not require us to sign anything, just a word of mouth would be enough. That is not the case. With millions of customers, every institution now needs a dedicated people called customer support, with a well outlined plan on how to deal with customers. They have standard answers to most questions, and they are not the most tech-savvy people the telcos or banks have. Their desire to keep costs low ends up providing poor services to the people they want to serve.

Third, it is hard and costly to build a good company culture and empower employees to speak in one voice, and stand up for your core values. Small institutions are able to that. The bigger an institution gets, the harder it becomes. This has also been the point where many institutions die. It is also the point where corporations risk being disrupted by new technologies and processes. It takes a lot of input to offer excellent customer care.

How can an institution excel in customer support?

The best answer is simply to work hard. An institution should consider customer support as one of their main marketing channel, and do all it takes to ensure customer satisfaction. This can be achieved by:

  • Ensure availability of support team when needed.
  • Timely response to customer queries.
  • Ensure polite and friendly service.
  • Capacity building to ensure high quality support. Work on build a good customer experience.
  • Giving honest and caring response to clients. Never lie or give flimsy excuses. Offer what you promise.
  • Build a customer centric organization/business, where the needs of the customers drive your actions.


Is Kenya’s Cyber Resilience Wanting?

Posted on 3 min read

On the first of June 2019, eighteen Kenyan government websites were hacked and defaced by a group of Indonesian cyber attackers. It took over 24 hours for the ICT Authority to restore them back, with people questioning the government’s capacity to deal with cyber-attack and protect Kenyans’ data. This was also not the first time. In 2012, a single hacker had managed to bring down 103 Government of Kenya websites.

Was the government caught napping in terms of cyber security? It is not easy to tell. Organizations invest a lot of money and resources in Cyber Security, and most of the cyber-attacks are usually stopped before they happen. However, Cyber Security, just like normal physical security, is something that is alive and growing. It keeps changing, and yesterday’s tactics may not work today. Cyber-attacks are here to stay and have been said to cost the Kenya about KES 25.9 billion in 2018. There is also an acute shortage of skilled Cyber Security personnel in the country, and the government is known not to be very competitive in hiring and retaining the best talents. However, even with the best personnel and resources, attacks still do occur.

As far as cyber-attacks are concerned, it is always a matter of when, not if. If some skilled persons decide that they must hack your website, chances are high that they will do it one day. It is just a matter of time and resources. This has seen the rise of hackers even from nondescript places such as North Korea terrorize the high and mighty USA. In the corporate world, transport and logistics conglomerate Maersk has experienced one of the most brutal cyber-attacks, which totaled its operations globally for several days and cost them about KES 30 billion. A Saudi petrochemical company was also hit by a cyber-attack last year, with attackers targeting to disrupt the safe operations of the plant and possibly cause massive explosions. Facebook, Yahoo, Adobe and others have also faced attacks. Cyber-attacks are everywhere, and it is just a matter of time if there is a target on your back.

How can governments and corporates stay safe? There is no easy solution. It will involve hard work, which means keeping a step ahead of potential cyber attackers. This is costly and it is already a multi-billion dollar industry. Currently, Israel stands out as the leader in cyber security, with great innovations from the country helping to tackle some of the most serious Cybersecurity problems in the world today. However, the first line of defense is not just these sophisticated tools, but more about ability to withstand and rise up after cyber-attack. This is why some experts today are talking more about Cyber resilience than cyber security.

Cyber resilience refers to an entity’s ability to continuously deliver the intended outcome despite adverse cyber events. In the case of the Kenyan government, this would mean being able to restore the websites that were defaced, and securing those servers used in hosting them. The government of Kenya needs to continuously increase its capacity to stop these attacks, but also improve on the time taken to get back in case of an attack. I hope the next time this happens (because it will), it will take a shorter time to get back online.