A massive locust infestation has migrated from Somalia and Ethiopia into Kenya, reports AP News. The insects are devouring crops in a country already afflicted by widespread hunger. The United Nations warns that coming rains could increase the locust populations by a factor of 500. The most effective way to stave of the infestation is through aerial pesticide spraying, which comes with a $70 million price. "Even a small swarm of the insects can consume enough food for 35,000 people in a single day, said Jens Laerke of the U.N. humanitarian office in Geneva," says the article.
(Image: Niv Singer, CC-BY) Read the rest
Boda Bodas are the ubiquitous motorbike taxis of Nairobi; Boda Boda drivers are in an arms-race to produce the most elaborately decorated motorbikes in order to differentiate themselves from the competition.
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CIT computer scientist Milan Cvitkovic conducted 46 in-depth interviews with "scientists, engineers, and CEOs" and collated their machine learning research needs into an aptly named paper entitled "Some Requests for Machine Learning Research from the East African Tech Scene," which presents an illuminating look into the gaps in the current practice of machine learning, itself an example of how rich-world priorities shape our ability to understand, compute and predict the world.
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The Nairobi neighborhood of Kibera is Africa's largest slum, and it's home to an unlikely, Silicon-Valley-style tech park operated by Samasource (motto: "Artificial intelligence meets human dignity"), who serves clients from Google to Microsoft to Salesforce, using clickworkers who get paid $9/day, compared to the going wage of $2/day in the region's "informal economy" (the company believes that paying wages on par with rich-world clickworkers would "distort the local economy").
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In early June, conservation rangers with the Hirola Conservation Program in Kenya first spotted a white female and baby giraffe. In early August, they were able to capture this footage of the elusive pair.
Like that translucent-shelled lobster that was recently pulled in, these giraffes are not albino but have a genetic condition called Leucism. That means they a partial loss of pigmentation in their skin cells. If you look closely, you can see a familiar, though faded, reticulation on the calf's neck.
A blogger for Hirola writes:
In this very sighting, in Ishaqbini, there was a mother and a juvenile The communities within Ishaqbini have mixed reactions to the sighting of this leucistic giraffe and most of the elders report that they have never seen this before. ‘This is new to us” says bashir one of the community rangers who alerted us when they sighted the white giraffe. “I remember when I was a kid, we never saw them” he added. “It must be very recent and we are not sure what is causing it” he said.
(National Geographic) Read the rest
Chris Msando is the Kenyan electoral commission IT manager who oversaw the country's computerized voting systems; now, just days before a hotly contested election, his body has been found in the Kikuyu area in Nairobi's outskirts, and the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission says he was tortured and murdered. Read the rest
Privacy International interviewed 57 sources for their report on the link between surveillance and torture and murder in Kenya, including 32 law enforcement, military or intelligence officers with direct firsthand knowledge of the programs. Read the rest
Le Monde has published a new collection of documents from the whistleblower Edward Snowden, showing that the British spy agency GCHQ targeted the leaders of allied countries in Africa, as well as business executives and employees of telecommunications companies, whose accounts were a means to gaining access to communications infrastructure across the continent. Read the rest
Canadian/British science fiction and fantasy author Geoff Ryman, author of the incredible novel WAS, has begun a series in which he profiles 100 working science fiction and fantasy writers in Africa, place by place, starting with Nairobi. Read the rest
The DC Appeals Court has just ruled against Amir Meshal, a US citizen who was arrested in Kenya by a joint US-Kenyan-Ethiopian law enforcement operation, held for months, tortured with FBI agents present and threatened with his secret murder, then released without any charges. Read the rest
MPs shredded their papers and threw them, and got into fistfights with one another over the new law, which allows the government to imprison suspects for 360 days without charge, and to fine press outlets millions for publishing articles "likely to cause fear or alarm" (this term is not defined in the statute). Read the rest
The Economist details outcomes from Give Directly, an organization that analyzes satellite photos to identify the poorest places in the world and then hands over no-strings-attached cash grants to the people who live there. It's a contrast to other programs, where donations are funneled into school construction or funding planned-out businesses. Give Directly has produced remarkably good results: "In randomly selected poor households in 63 villages that have received the windfalls, they say, the number of children going without food for a day has fallen by over a third and livestock holdings have risen by half. A year after the scheme began, incomes have gone up by a quarter and recipients seem less stressed, according to tests of their cortisol levels." Read the rest
Middle-class Kenyan teens are inventing a local version of goth subculture, and are at the center of a moral panic about kids-gone-wild -- according to an article in Think Africa Press. The article is shy on details or photographic evidence, but I hope its true about the subculture (and not about the moral panic). Anyone have more evidence of this?
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The negative public image of the goth scene also extends beyond the general public and is apparent in the attitudes of local authorities, at times with dramatic consequences. David used to have long hair, another way to stand out in a country where men tend to wear it very short. A couple of weeks before I met him, he was walking in town at dusk, waiting for the bus back to Nakuru, when a police car pulled over in front of him. The police approached him and asked to see his passport, which he was not carrying, before they accused him of looking like ‘an al-Shabaab’ – a Somali militant Islamist group responsible for several terrorist attacks in the region.
David denied this, stating that he was a Kenyan. The police then challenged him as to why he had untidy hair and facial piercings, preposterously claiming that these are hallmarks of Somali terrorists. They put him in their car and drove him to a nearby barber where they forced him to shave his head. They said that this would "stop confusing them", and they told him to "dress like a decent person" in future.
Mocality is an African startup that has a Kenya-wide business directory. There is no Kenyan yellow pages, so the directory was crowdsourced, paying thousands of Kenyans to help create and validate its database.
When the businesses in Mocality's database started asking them about the premium service they were offering with Google, Mocality was puzzled. They had no joint venture with Google, and they had never charged any business for inclusion in their database. When they examined their server logs, they saw a large number of hits to the records for the businesses that had been cold-called from the same IP range.
So Mocality laid a trap: when that IP range next visited the Mocality site, they fed it fake phone numbers that went to Mocality's own call center, where a Mocality operator pretended to be a business-owner and recorded the conversation. In that conversation, the caller identified himself as a Google employee, calling about a joint Google-Mocality venture, and asking the business to pay Google for a Kenya Business Online website with its own domain on that basis. This was, of course, absolutely fraudulent. There was and is no Google-Mocality joint venture.
Shortly after, that IP range stopped visiting Mocality's servers, but another range, this one registered to Google's Mountain View headquarters [edit: this address has previously been used to conduct official Google business in India], began to query its database. Again, Mocality served a fake result with its own call-center number, and an hour later, they received a call from someone identifying herself as working on Google's behalf, asking for money for a joint Google-Mocality product. Read the rest
"Nairobi, Kenya," a photo from Boing Boing reader Biketripper shared in the BB Flickr Pool. On the bikeflaps of one rider, "A Strong Enemy Is Better Than a Weak Friend." Read the rest
Market Bargaining in Nairobi. The bargainer in question is Joe Sabia, who collaborates with me on Boing Boing Video projects. He was in Kenya working on some interesting new things. Read the rest
Joseph Omwoyo, a 17 year old student in rural Kenya, started building this junk helicopter after visiting an airport; he hopes to be an aviation engineer some day. He should hook up with the Kenyan IT guy who's building a junk airplane.
17 year old's flying dream
(via Afrigadget) Read the rest