Guest Post: Jim from Kenyan Zone


icon for podpress  Introduction by Mwangi - Jim from the Kenyan Zone [1:35m]: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download

1) Open Office

2) Kenyan Zone

To learn more about Open Source click here

Mozilla Firefox logo

Why Open Source Projects will save Kenyan Education?

We are currently living in a technology era. Over the last 30 years, human beings have heavily depended on computers to execute almost everything in their daily lives. The more we keep depending on the technology to execute almost everything in our daily activities, the more likely it is that going back to the past traditional ways of doing things will not happen. As the technology improves, humans have to keep up with it. You may not notice but computers are part of our basic needs. Take a look at what you do everyday and you will see everything relate back to computers.

As Kenya strive to keep up with modern world, a major improvement has already been implented on the education system:free education(Quick note from Mwangi, the free education statement is referring to Kenya)

As the government keeps struggling to offer free education to anyone willing, leaders should focus more on ways to improve the education system. Our education system should never be stagnant, instead, ways to establish modern technologies into the system should be the priority. The way I see it, there should be a 50 computers-per-school campaign.

Ubuntu logo

How is this possible?

As for now, a brand new commercial computer ( including Window ..etc) with all basic needs for an average user goes for $500 (SH 30000 ) or more. Kenyans abroad might see it as decent price but it is always not the same case in Kenya. If you buy 50 commercial based computers (Windows, Mac), you will end up paying more than KSH 2 million without including other necessary software i.e Microsoft office, PhotoShop.

Well the open source community has the answer. A $200 (KSH 14, 000) computer sounds much more affordable to any school in Kenya willing to have a computer library. All you need is KSH 700, 000 to build a lab with 50 PCs.

Last year, there was mass sale at Walmart for a complete Ubuntu based computer. Amazingly, all their stock sold out mainly because of low price. As time goes on, Open Source will conquer the world of Operation Systems. In the next 2-3 years, Ubuntu based computers will rule third world countries. If Kenya invests more in Open Source Products, a lot of money will be saved and Necessary technology will be available to many.

The grand daddy of open source: Wordpress

What is worth noting is why a lot of people are leaning toward the Open Source Systems;

-All products are developed by a community of volunteers
-You can modify anything to your needs
-Upgrades are free
-Security issues get fixed quickly
-You get support from thousands of volunteers users
-Softwares are free

As for now, I’m using the following Open Source Products;
-PHPBB ( > Similar commercial item would cost $150 (VBulletion)
-GIMP > Similar software would retail at $ 800 (Photo Shop)
-Mozilla > Similar commercial software = $ 100 ( Microsoft Office)


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No Comments

  • By seinlife, April 30, 2008 @ 4:26 am

    Awesome write up Jim! This sort of reminds of the $100 laptop program but with an added bonus. I think the most attractive thing about open source in Africa is its openness(huge potential for developers) and sharing-ness. I think people will learn to use computers much more efficiently and hence have much more brain power.This could potentially give africa technical independence. The only problem i see is how to break the loyalty that users in africa already have with Microsoft? How can we entice them away from microsoft products to try this new thing (open source)?

  • By Mwangi, April 30, 2008 @ 4:35 am

    @seinlife: While we await Jim’s response I will give my pedestrian answer. I think when software works better that will be incentive in and off itself. I used Internet explorer for years but the moment I discovered Mozilla I never looked back.
    Same thing applies with Microsoft Office vs Open Office- I was too broke to pay for MS Office but over the course of using Open Office and Google Documents I realized that the two in combination are just superior.
    I also used to have 3 blogs on – I actually started blogging in October and was on blogger for 3 or so months-but the moment I discovered Wordpress I was in love.

  • By -Jim-, April 30, 2008 @ 8:25 am

    There is nothing like loyalty of Microsoft in Kenya. What most Kenyans luck is options and lack of information.

    Options: If Macs are cheaper as Windows, you probably would have written “The only problem i see is how to break the loyalty that users in africa already have with Microsoft and Apple?” In terms of quality, if not equal, Macs are better but their prices are outrageous, and thats why they are not popular in Kenya. What I’m trying to say is Price is the prime factor.
    If Ubuntu can perform all the basic functions (Documents, downloading, Surfing the net) for an average user and can be obtained for less that SH 10000 or less, I don’t see why people would go for more expensive product.

    Lack of Information: Kenyans have a huge interest on politics that they often forget about other important things. If you ask Kenyans about Open Source product, a lot of them barely knows anything. Instead, they spend a lot of money on what the mainstream media tell them to buy.

    PS: Great Introduction :)

  • By Mwangi, April 30, 2008 @ 8:33 am

    @Jim: Thanks. I agree that the benefits that open source software can bring to Africans’ lives matter much more to them than a particular brand, or even the marketing. If Ubuntu can help them get an education and live fulfilling, enriching lives at a cheaper cost than Microsoft, and they know that, I see them making the shift faster than Asafa Powell in a riot….:)

  • By Caustic Blonde, April 30, 2008 @ 3:47 pm

    Let me comment on the Gimp, I use this program all the time and it does everything that photoshop does. I love the Gimp and have never understood why people are willing to shell out over $800 for a paint program. I prefer to donate money to the Gimp and like projects.

  • By gal africana, April 30, 2008 @ 7:45 pm

    Is wordpress really better than blogger? I’ve considered moving house for a while but I find the WP technical support online daunting…like I cant find info on how to move all my posts and comments to WP.
    Live and learn…been using VCW for photo editing and comparing it to the usability of photoshop makes me a not happy camper. Will promptly check out GIMP.

  • By Mwangi, May 1, 2008 @ 1:53 am

    @Caustic: Me thinks when I get the point where I will need to edit pictures, the Gimp will be the way to go. The way you feel about Gimp is how I kinda feel about Open Office + Google Documents, I don’t see now why I would ever shell out money for Microsoft Word when I am able to manipulate and transfer documents seamlessly both on and offline.

  • By Mwangi, May 1, 2008 @ 1:58 am

    @gal africana: At the moment I am on Wordpress and I host this site with a hosting company that blends seamlessly with Wordpress and it’s absolute heaven. The things that truly make Wordpress fantastic are:
    a) Free themes: Thousands upon thousands upon thousands of free themes to choose from,and most of them look professionally designed.
    b) Plugins: Subscribing to comments, there are plugins that allow someone to print documents, there are plugins for adsense, plugins that allow me to paste audio files (like for the podcast).
    Though I definitely agree that technically it takes a tad bit longer to get the grasp of Wordpress, for my personal circumstances I can’t even begin to compare the two.

  • By Mwangi, May 1, 2008 @ 3:33 am

    @gal africana: I loooked it up and according to a friend of mine, if you want to transfer posts from blogger to Wordpress:

    If you are using WordPress 2.2 or higher then you can go to your wordpress admin panel, click on Manage, click on Import, and then click on Blogger. Follow the steps displayed from there.

    NB: We are up to Wordpress 2.5.1

  • By gal africana, May 1, 2008 @ 4:13 am

    Thanks, its as easy as pressing the import button…silly me. I think I’ll have to find a local WP geek to make things easier…for now I’ll stick to the evil I know that is blogger.

  • By oliver omotto, October 12, 2008 @ 3:47 am

    Hi, this is good information. I am a media studies teacher in Kenya (A levels) and we use Photoshop for educational purposes and training students on photo editing. The challenge to most institutions has been inflated costs. I will suggest GIMP to my students and observe how it works. Thanks

  • By Mwangi, October 12, 2008 @ 6:06 am

    @oliver: You are more than welcome. It is actually possible to do absolutely everything now for free thanks to Open Source solutions like Ubuntu, Sourceforge and their various software packages, Wordpress OpenOffice etc etc etc so its a good time to be online me thinks. Thank you for visiting the site.

  • By oliver omotto, October 12, 2008 @ 6:19 pm

    Thanx alot Mwangi.

    One other querry, i have been using Creative Suite editions because they come as a package: photoshop, in design, illustrator image ready etc its a one stop shop.

    Now does Open office have a similar brand?

    Secondly, we find it hard to catch up with CS programs, they launch a new edition almost every year. I had CS2 then it was CS3 now everybody is talking of CS4! We in developing world just cant be able to budget for such rapid changes.

    Thanks for the info so far, i will recommend the site.

  • By Mwangi - the Displaced African, October 12, 2008 @ 6:28 pm

    @oliver: Pardon my ignorance, but what does a CS site do? Describe it in terms of the output e.g. MS Word is a Word processor, Wordpress is a website publishing software, Ubuntu is an Operating System Open Office Calculator is an Excel Spreadsheet creator (well there is a deeper level to that, but I’m sure you see where I am going) etc etc etc

    Once you let me know that I will glady do some research and see if I can find and recommend some open source solutions.

    My recommendations even before I fully understand your needs though, check out, check out Google and their various applications and find out if there is a forum associated with the Creative Suite community (preferably based in Silicon Valley or with most of its members from there) and inquire there as to whether Open Source solutions exist)

    If all these recommendations don’t work, including the ones I send you once I understand what you are asking then allow me to recommend that you partner with people overseas, use websites like or to get your own version of a Creative Suite software created cheaply. You won’t have to pay great amounts and once its created you will have your own version customized to your needs.

    Just a few quick thoughts. But definitely let me know what a Creative Suite does

  • By Mwangi - the Displaced African, October 12, 2008 @ 6:34 pm

    @oliver: In my exuberance, I Googled Creative Suite and apparently the software is used to do the following:

    graphic design, video editing, and web development

    If that’s the case,then if I were to go piece by piece I would recommend:
    a) Web development: Wordpress, hands down, no question, its so customizable and malleable there really is no question what software to use to publish online so check it out at
    b) Hmmm, in film school we had recommended to us the uber-expensive, Final Cut Pro which is awesome.
    Here I guess it depends on what your needs are, for basic video editing I have used Window’s free movie maker software, if you are using a mac their free version is way better
    c) For graphic design, unfortunately here I have no clue as I am not a graphic designer and not a part of the industry.

    Anyway, hope this information helps………

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