Facebook should unfriend Mwau

The United States Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act (the “Kingpin Act”) became law in the United States on December 3, 1999. Its purpose is

to deny significant foreign narcotics traffickers, their related businesses, and their operatives access to the U.S. financial system and to prohibit all trade and transactions between the traffickers and U.S. companies and individuals. The Kingpin Act authorizes the President to take these actions when he determines that a foreign person plays a significant role in international narcotics trafficking.

In other words Kingpin Act targets, on a worldwide basis, significant foreign narcotics traffickers, their organizations, and operatives by making it illegal for any U.S. company or any U.S. individual to conduct any financial transactions with them.

Individuals who violate the Kingpin Act are subject to criminal penalties

of up to 10 years in prison and/or fines pursuant to Title 18 of the U.S. Code. Entities that violate the Act face criminal penalties in the form of fines up to USD 10 million; officers, directors, or agents of an entity who knowingly participate in a violation of the Kingpin Act are subject to criminal penalties of up to 30 years in imprison and/or a USD 5 million fine. The Kingpin Act also provides for civil penalties of up to USD 1.075 million against individuals or entities that violate its provisions.

Annually on the 1st of June the U.S. President can write to the U.S. Congress with a list of individuals to be sanctioned under the Act. On the 1st of June 2011, that list contained the names of two Kenyans; John Harun Mwau and Naima Mohamed Nyakiniywa.

Facebook is a social networking service and website operated and privately owned by Facebook, Inc. Facebook, Inc was founded in 2004 and is based in Palo Alto, California. It is a U.S. company. Ownership of Facebook, Inc is shared between Mark Zuckerberg, Accel Partners, Digital Sky Technologies, Greylock Partners, Meritech Capital Partners and Microsoft amongst others. Most are U.S. citizens and U.S. companies.

Remember that U.S. companies and U.S. individuals are forbidden from any financial transactions with narcotics traffickers named through the Kingpin Act. The fines for ignoring the Act range from USD 1 million to USD 10 million and there’s also the not very little matter of the possibility of 30 years imprisonment.

Last night I started noticing adverts on Facebook for John Harun Mwau’s Facebook page. The text for the ad reads:

Success and Wealth are but a state of mind. Discover the principles that guided me to Success on My Facebook Page.

A screenshot of the ad is below:

John Harun Mwau Facebook Ad - Screenshot

John Harun Mwau Facebook Ad - Screenshot

These ads are typical paid for, they usually involve some sort of financial transaction. The type of transaction the Kingpin Act forbids.

Until otherwise explained it looks like Facebook, Inc may have violated the Kingpin Act and is putting itself, its owners (such as Zuckerberg), its partners (such as Microsoft – whose technology runs the ads) at the risk of some very serious fines and jail time. All for a few ads which probably generated just a couple hundred of dollars in revenue for Facebook, Inc.

The world is a village. You never know when a “significant narcotics trafficker” is going to buy ads on your service. The real question here perhaps is what will these U.S. companies, such as Facebook and Microsoft, do when they find out individuals they are not allowed to do business with are buying their services?

Nokia N8

I have many brothers and sisters.
My parents have well over 20 siblings. Each.
All those uncles and aunties means I have a lot of cousins. Expect we do not have a word for cousin, many African languages do not. The children of my parent’s siblings are brothers and sisters, thus, I have many brothers and sisters. The plus side is the centrality of family and by extension community is one of the many things that makes Africa great. The reality side, however, means that there are many brothers and sisters I know only vaguely at best. Others, however, I know very well and are amongst my best friends and business partners.

But this article is not about family. It is about phones.

Nokia is a member of every African family. One of those distant relatives you don’t know very well who over the last 10 years has become the family favourite. In my extended family for example, my grandmother has a Nokia phone, my parents have Nokia phones, I’ve had many Nokia phones, my nieces and nephews have Nokia phones. That is at least 4 generations of Nokia phone owners. 4 generations within Africa, some in the diaspora, some in megacities others in small rural villages. Some charge their phones on electricity generated by nuclear power, others charge their phones on electricity generated by a guy riding on a bicycle with a dynamo. When Nokia say the connect people we decided to test that and they did.

My first mobile phone was a Motorola – a proper brick with a proper antenna. I knew it was time to change when bouncers wouldn’t let me carry the phone into the club because, “they use them as weapons, mate” (who “they” were was never really defined but it was clear that these brick phones in their hands would cause a lot of damage). So I went out and bought a Ericsson which looked a lot better than it functioned. After a couple of months of looking good I decided, reluctantly, that I really should be able to talk on a mobile phone so I ditched the Ericsson and got my first Nokia – the world famous 3310. And just like that Nokia became part of my family.

The 3310 was eventually exported from the UK to Kenya and climbed up the food chain as it were eventually ending up with one of the patriarchs. I upgraded to the “Banana Phone” the Nokia 8110 and on and on it went peaking with the Nokia 6230 a marvellous beast of a phone (hello bluetooth). The 6230 is probably responsible for my friendship with JKE amongst other people. I used it for nearly 5 years and it is the only Nokia that I never sent up the food chain as I used it until it gave up and died completely after long and glorious service. Nokia was true and reliable member of the family.

Then things started going wrong. New handsets that would die after a couple of months for no reason, handsets with keypads that would fade completely after a few weeks, handsets where you couldn’t open the battery cover without a jackhammer drill, handsets where the battery cover would pop off every minute. Finally my patience wore out when a brand new Nokia wouldn’t display contact list names no matter where the numbers were saved, handset or SIM card. It was time to kick Nokia out of the family.

But wait, some interesting developments, Nokia Kenya offered me a Nokia N8 for a month for a test run. “Take it for a month, ” they said and “let us know what you think”, they said and “be as honest as you want” they said. That sounded fair enough. Despite my long relationship with Nokia I had never owned any of their top-of-the-range products and it would only be fair to see them at their best before excommunicating them forever.

As you can probably tell this is not your usual phone review full of stats on battery life and number of megapixels on the screen. For that you are better served elsewhere. This review is much more personal. This is about family. Also it is about whether Nokia still knows how to make phones worth buying.

The N8 I received is green. A yellowly green rather than a green green if you want to get technical. This is good because it:

  • looks like no other phone I have seen around and thus is harder to steal theoretically
  • I will not be mistaken for a Gor Mahia fan with a green phone especially since you can actually get the N8 in AFC Leopards’ blue

This phone feels expensive and the big responsive touch screen confirms it. The screen needs a paragraph on its own. This screen is brighter and has more colours than my TV, that probably says more about my TV than the phone but, in this instance, you literally do get the picture.

Oh and what a picture it is! With its 10 megapixels camera I almost forgot I was carrying a phone and spent most of my time with the gadget taking pictures. This camera on this phone has transformed my day as I go around taking photos for my #NikoWapi tag on Twitter where people try to guess where I am based on the photos I upload from the phone.

Setting up internet access and email accounts on the phone was relatively straight forward as well. Here unfortunately is where the N8 stops punching its weight. Once you are online the lack of native apps for the most popular social networks for example makes the Nokia experience more tedious than with other smart phones. The same with Gmail and other web based apps. It is unsurprising to hear that some enterprising people have hacked Android onto Nokias. Considering this phone is a big player aimed to compete with other big players such as the iPhone, high end BlackBerries and high end Android phones this is a serious setback.

But for many people this may be the wrong comparison to make, if you are on Nokia and want to move up to a bigger, better, badder phone you bound to enjoy the N8. If you want a well built phone with screen that will light you up like KPLC never will, you are bound to enjoy the N8. If you want a phone that makes a style and fashion statement as well as high end functionality and durability, you are bound to enjoy the N8. If you want a smart phone that does the simple things well as well, then you’ll enjoy the N8. Sending and SMS is a simple as it always has been, which is a BIG advantage as many smart phones unnecessarily complicate the simple things such as calling and txting. This looks good, is durable despite the acres of glass on it (I can’t identify any scratches or marks on it after carrying around everyday for a month which is pretty impressive when you consider where I take myself and what I put my phones through) and considering it costs KSH 40,000+ it should be all those things.

So Nokia still knows how to make phones this is good news because Nokia knows Africa. I wish we would all stop waxing lyrical for simple phones with flashlights and instead pushed Nokia for more smart phones for the masses.

As for this phone being part of the family – well one thing is for sure, if you do end up with one you’re not going to be handing it over any time soon!

Random Hacks of Kindness

Random Hacks of Kindness logo

The motherlode of Kenyan technology, iHub Nairobi, is this weekend hosting the Kenyan round of the 2nd edition of Random Hacks of Kindness.

Random Hacks of Kindness (RHoK) is all about using technology to make the world a better place by building a community of innovation. RHoK brings software engineers together with disaster risk management experts to identify critical global challenges, and develop software to respond to them. A RHoK Hackathon event brings together the best and the brightest hackers from around the world, who volunteer their time to solve real-world problems.

The 1st edition of RHoK held in June this year also at the iHub was a huge success. It was eventually won by a team called Res-Q who developed a solution to the Person Finder problem.

They created a Person finder technology that includes a database schema to synchronize multiple databases. The team came up with a mobile and also a web app. The mobile app was in j2me and with this the registration process would take place. The web app was named Virtual Assembly Point since it emulated a fire assembly point.

RHoK is a hackathon with the teams working through the whole of Saturday, through the night to have their submissions ready by the deadline of 13.30 E.A.T.

The iHub is slowly filling up as hackers get used to the idea of rising before noon (although a free breakfast was a fitting reward for those who managed to wake up early.)

I will be posting updates periodically.
Also keep an eye on the iHub blog
My RHoK photos are on Flickr
Check out what’s happening at RHoK around the world on Twitter