Learn the modern way of developing Web applications this festive season for free.

If there is anything I’m passionate about nothing beats the passion to use technology to benefit fellow humans.

Since I got the opportunity to live in the generation where the world is a global community because of internet, it gifts me the privilege to learn and share. This festival season, I would like teach you about developing functional web applications using modern tools and approaches.

Take a look at the table of contents.

  1. Prerequisite
  2. Web design vs Web applications development
  3. Extending is smart!
  4. Components of a Web application.
  5. Powering web applications with WordPress
  6. The do list application

At the end of the tutorial I expect the reader to:-

  • To differentiate web design from web development.
  • To learn the different components together with their functionality in web applications.
  • To develop web applications using WordPress as an underlying framework.

Stay tuned for the next post, in which I will reveal my experiences and the requirements you need to benefit from this short but practical tutorial.

 

 

 


eCommerce realities in Kenya.

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Perhaps you have heard of Kentex Cargo, Africa Salihiya Cargo, Aircom Cargo, perhaps you don’t, and don’t care……..but you should. Our new reality is that a while back connecting with somebody in a different continent was rocket science. You needed to access a phone or a fax machine, for instantaneous communication. Then the internet saved our struggles, we then realized that we didn’t have to wait 30 days for a mail delivery. Voice over internet was born and eventually, we lived web.

Today we have smartphones, with higher computing power that the apollo 11, that thing that went to the moon, that thing couldn’t event tweet. Technology has continued to help us positively in the way we live, work and connect, how we connect with different continents. We have played catch up in many areas. One thing that has really slowed the uptake has been infrastructure, it has taken a while to have it and even when it was in place, there was something else hindering progress, some of those were government bureaucracy.

The foundation for ecommerce was created in 1979 by Michael Aldrich. He connected his television to a computer using his telephone line. While it was unlike ecommerce as we know it today, his idea sparked the idea for shopping without having to go to a physical store. At the time, most people didn’t own computers. Bill Gates and Steve Jobs popularized computers for the average person. Bill Gates even said that his goal was to put “a computer on every desk and in every home.” Without computers, ecommerce would be remarkably different.

There are two ways to shop, you drive to your favorite store and pick up what you want paying at the counter or you login online to the likes of Amazon, eBay and the same thing will be shipped to your door steps. This has been possible in many countries except with suppliers who always say that they don’t ship to your address.

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  • Amazon: Amazon was founded by Jeff Bezos. According to Alexa, Amazon is currently ranked the 9th most popular website worldwide, and 4th in the United States.
  • Taobao: Taobao was founded by Jack Ma. Globally, it’s ranked 11. In China, it’s ranked 5th.
  • Tmall: Tmall was also founded by Jack Ma. It has a global ranking of 15 and a rank of 4 in China.
  • AliExpress: AliExpress was founded by Jack Ma. It’s currently ranked 40th in the world and 9th in Russia according to Alexa.
  • eBay: eBay was founded by Pierre Omidyar. On Alexa, the ecommerce site is ranked 33 globally, and 9th in the US.
  • Flipkart: Flipkart was founded by Binny Bansal and Sachin Bansal. Alexa has it ranked 147 globally and 9th in India.

If you are in Kenya, and you intend to buy something online, then you will care to know about Kentex and the likes. You send your good to an address they provide, either in the US, UK, UAE etc and they will ship it to you at an extra cost and normally its usually still fair. Mall of Africa, an app that gives you access to over 200 stores in US and UK. What this companies have done is to build a bridge in between the continent where the goods are originating to the recipient continent, and it works perfectly.

The ecommerce industry is expected to continue growing. According to N Channel, in the US, brick and mortar retailers generate $3.9 trillion in sales while ecommerce generates $294 billion. Over time, ecommerce will continue to take away market share from brick and mortar retailers as it has been doing over the past few years. This is good news for those looking to start online stores as sales will only continue to go up, though competition will also increase in the space.

Ecommerce will also likely evolve over the years creating a more augmented or virtual reality experience for shoppers. Stores may eventually include features to help customers ‘virtually’ try on clothing to ensure it fits their shape while allowing them to see what it would look like on. Shoppers may be able to ‘try’ on makeup using their laptop or phone’s camera.

Are you interested in getting started with ecommerce? Let me know in the comments below!

 

 


Our dreams have been awaken!

One of the reasons we started a community Mobile Digital Hub, is to introduce as many people as possible to technology in Uganda and around the world. Fulfilling this that task won’t only teach most Ugandans about technology, it will also encourage learning of many important skills for life.

We discovered that most people who applied for the training were older than 19 years and had either little education background or none at all. When we introduced them to internet, and they learned how to carry out simple research with the internet you could see each of them one searching something of their own interest. One of them was searching about money lending businesses, the other was searching about the best schools in Uganda perhaps because she has a daughter who could start to go to school soon.

On the graduation day we gave out both certificates of completion and participation, we also received a lot of feedback from the learners. [Photos coming soon]

 

 

 


Trust in Technology

A few days ago, I got enthusiastically introduced to Ethereum, a platform for decentralised applications, based on a public blockchain and using Ether as a crypto currency. The main idea of this project is building decentralised, digital networks to handle standardised agreements (smart contracts) between people, f.e. handling financial transactions, booking hotel accommodations, granting of […]

The post Trust in Technology appeared first on Christine Graf.

How safe is the internet is things.

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“On the flip side, a smart tea maker that knows just when you’re in need of a cup could be very handy indeed”.

Among its many other cultural and economic assets, Google is accumulating a rather comprehensive record of what is troubling us, from asking the search engine to diagnose our disease symptoms to whether we will ever find true love. It seems only natural, then, to turn to Google to decrypt the latest piece of technical jargon, “the internet of things”.

It is a term that internet users have been peppering the search engine with questions about. But what does it mean for real life?The internet of things (or as it’s also known, IoT) isn’t new: tech companies and pundits have been discussing the idea for decades, and the first internet-connected toaster was unveiled at a conference in 1989.

At its core, IoT is simple: it’s about connecting devices over the internet, letting them talk to us, applications, and each other. The popular, if silly, example is the smart fridge: what if your fridge could tell you it was out of milk, texting you if its internal cameras saw there was none left, or that the carton was past its use-by date?

IoT is more than smart homes and connected appliances, however. It scales up to include smart cities – think of connected traffic signals that monitor utility use, or smart bins that signal when they need to be emptied – and industry, with connected sensors for everything from tracking parts to monitoring crops.

Security experts however argue that not enough is being done to build security and privacy into IoT at these early stages, and to prove their point have hacked a host of devices, from connected baby monitors to automated lighting and smart fridges, as well as city wide systems such as traffic signals. Hackers haven’t, for the most part, put much attention to IoT; there’s likely not enough people using connected appliances for an attack against them to be worth the effort, but as ever, as soon as there’s a financial benefit to hacking smart homes, there will be a cyber criminal working away at it.

So the short answer is yes, IoT is relatively safe: you’re not likely to face serious loss or damage because of your smart things, any more than your home PC, at least. However, there’s no guarantee, and so far not enough is being done to ensure IoT isn’t the next big hacking target. On the flip side, a smart tea maker that knows just when you’re in need of a cuppa could be very handy indeed.

But the internet of things is one of those wider ideas that isn’t dependent on a single project or product. Smart fridges may well be the appliance of the future, or could fall by the wayside as too much tech for too little gain, but the idea of connected sensors and smart devices making decisions without our input will continue.

A decade from now, everything could be connected or perhaps only bits and pieces with specific benefits, such as smart meters; and we may call it IoT, smart devices or not call it anything at all, the way smartphones have simply become phones.

No matter where it is or what we call it, IoT is real – but what it will look like in the future is something even Google can’t answer.


The Art of Questioning.

A beatiful Question

 

When starting any design project, you need to ask a lot of questions. The perceived problem and actual problem may not be the same. So how can you get better at asking the right questions?

I decided to brush up on my questioning skills by reading A More Beautiful Question by Warren Berger. Berger illustrates how questioning is an inherent skill we’re quite adept at during childhood. He notes that children haven’t developed a “mental model” of the world, so they question everything. But as we go through standardized education, we begin to suppress our curiosity.

As adults, it’s frowned upon to ask too many questions in the workplace. On the flip side, we’re often embarrassed when we don’t have immediate answers. But Berger claims the ability to admit you don’t have all the answers, but can ask better questions, is a superior skillset.

By analyzing innovative figures, Berger identified three common types of questions that lead to breakthroughs.

Why?

Why does something have to be the way it is? Has everybody else missed something obvious? Are we basing our understanding on assumptions? Asking ‘why’ questions is about challenging assumptions and the status quo. A famous example of a ‘why’ question is when Edwin Land’s son asked, “Why do we have to wait to see our pictures?” Land answered that question by creating the Polaroid instant camera.

What if…?

This is where you mash up ideas, go against common logic, or add/remove factors that make the challenge more interesting. Sky’s the limit here as each wild idea often yields a workable element. This thought process is sometimes referred to as “divergent thinking.” Thank the candy gods that one day H.B. Reese, inventor of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups asked, “What if you put peanut butter and chocolate together?”

How?

This is where the rubber meets the road. Propose solutions, create testable hypotheses, perform a bunch of tests to gain insight. This is typically the “prototyping” stage where you have to see what elements of your ideas are compatible with reality. A near legendary example of the rapid prototyping is the story of the Google Glass team creating a working though ugly prototype of Glass in just 45 minutes.

Questioning in Business Culture

While most modern enterprise companies use buzzwords like “out of the box thinking”, they seem to rather question averse. Instead, they’ve created a culture which rewards employees on measures of efficiency, while punishing those who ask too many questions.

Enterprise software design treats the Lean method more as a process than a mindset. It’s used to move a project from concept to creation, but not to iterate and discover. In a true spirit of Lean, a team needs to be ready to try many approaches and fail. A strong culture of questioning is essential to achieving innovative results.

UX and product designers must adopt a questioning mindset. Skilled questioning leads to better outcomes and paradigm changes within organizations. You may stir the pot a little bit, but you may also help shape a new direction and encourage others to move forward.


#cmssummit17….Empowering Businesses through Open Source.

Click to view slideshow.

A gentleman walked up to me in the lobby of Chelsea Hotel central area, Abuja. Its was 8am, he saw us instaling roll-up banners and wanted to know what event we were preparing for. This is CMS Africa Summit 17, premier open source tech event that brings together top ranking web developers, online marketers, software engineers, online retailers, web administrators, online banking admins, company owners, Open source enthusiasts and tech students to a two day conference. This years conference was in Abuja Nigeria, getting here, a long and difficult journey.

The gentleman, his name is Mud Yahaya, working for Greetings Media in Abuja. He was really keen that his staff be given a chance to attend the conference. We had been organizing this event for months, on the 3rd of March, the D-day for the event, we were fully booked. This, was devastating news for Mr. Mud, there was some determination of his face that I wouldn’t find anywhere at that time, especially in Abuja, where people like to start their day after 9am. As I said, it was 8am. We organized seven slots for him, which he paid for, and he was glad but wanted more slots for his other staff. An hour later the registration table became busy, we were ready to launch.

There are many things that always run my mind, on the day of the summit. Normally, I have to make sure that things are in order, especially for the launch. This day, I was holding the camera…..I was the photographer amongst other duties. And my mind kept flashing on my encounter with Mr. Mud, and my mind flashed to his office, a place I have never been and the sight of young people I had denied opportunity to attend the summit. So after battling with my soul when the keynote speech was on going, I decided to call Mr. Mud and told him to bring the employees he would bring. Minutes later, a van was at the front entrance, with young men and women ready for their experience of their life. At that minute, I felt very proud, and very happy.

This has been my experience every summit we have held since 2013. I have meet and interacted with young men and women who want to do something new, and they are determined and focused. CMS Africa has worked with institutions around the Africa, focusing on Information Technology. I have always shared that I have met 20 year olds who already know what they want do with their lives, I have also met 50 year olds who still don’t know what they want to do with their lives. Its just Life. Some people will grasp it early in life and for other it will take time. Some harness opportunities in front of them while for others, they flush it right in front of their eyes.

The cmssummit17 was represented well, all areas of content management, business development and start-up and e-Commerce. Nigeria is a country of 180 million people, for a country this big, trade always thrives and e-Commerce is a developing idea here. Site like jiji.nj is open platform where people are allowed to buy and sell stuff without having to pay anything. This year, the vice president of Magento Association was among the speakers. This is the second time he is speaking in this summit. Speaking on Meet Magento, the open source that is changing the world. Job Thomas, leading the team of developers and happiness engineers from Automatic speaking on a wide variety of topic on different products from Automatic including WordPress and the world of content, eCommerce for fun and profit, WordPress customizer and JetPack and many more.

The first and only Joomla! certification in Africa is in Abuja, Nigeria. The centre is run by Adedayo who is also Nigeria Lead for CMS Africa Summit. In her presentation, she highlighted about her journey as a female developer in an area dominated by men. The Joomla! Certification Program has been created to ensure the competence of Joomla! professionals through documented measurement of skills and knowledge. The program aims to establish a certain standard whilst promoting a qualified workforce. Professional certification can play an important role in the decision of a company or business owner when hiring skilled individuals for specific roles.

Later that evening we went to a tour at the Venture Platform, a world-class full-service innovation hub in Abuja. At the core of VP’s value proposition is an intensive 16-week accelerator program, a residence for need-based cohorts and a paid co-working space for free-lance entrepreneurs and professionals on the go. Its a creative place, with positive vibe. We were taken on a tour of the premises and what they offer. One of the products they are offering is VP Hub’s accelerator program,  a pro-founder series of coordinated activities and interventions designed to support startups at the MVP stage with mentorship, business re-engineering, work space, living space, back office support, shared services and seed funding.

The goal is to ensure that by the end of the 3 to 4-month program, our accepted startups will have attained product/market fit, gained traction (revenue, partnerships, and commitments) and will be ready for early stage investors that they will meet during the program and at the Demo-Day event, that ends the program.

On the last day of the event Mr. Mud came to me and held my hand, for a minute he thanked me for a great experience and invited me in his office. I had made a new friendship, away from home. This was the first dry summit in four years, the temperatures in Abuja were as high as 38 degrees. I have shared pictures of the summit on the link below, Abuja had been great and see you next year.

Photos-https://www.flickr.com/gp/141544812@N04/2q1y0T

 


Abuja Is Calling-CMS Africa Summit 2017.

“CMS AFRICA enables the attendees to gain knowledge, share experiences and meet other professionals. It empowers developers and businessmen of today and tomorrow to stay relevant in their relevant markets”. – Sarah Watz. President Open Source Matters.

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The history of West Africa can be divided into five major periods: first, its prehistory, in which the first human settlers arrived, developed agriculture, and made contact with peoples to the north; the second, the Iron Age empires that consolidated both intra-African, and extra-African trade, and developed centralized states; third, major polities flourished, which would undergo an extensive history of contact with non-Africans; fourth, the colonial period, in which Great Britain and France controlled nearly the entire region; and fifth, the post-independence era, in which the current nations were formed.

This year, we are in Abuja Nigeria for our annual CMS Africa Summit. Abuja is a planned city which was built mainly in the 1980s. It officially became Nigeria’s capital on 12 December 1991, replacing Lagos, though the latter remains the country’s most populous city. CMS Africa summit is a premier Web, Business, and Mobile event in Africa that gathers developers, E-commerce professionals,  Web administrators, Telecoms and Open Source Organisations among many others in a 2 day summit. This year’s event will be on the 3rd and 4th March at the Chelsea Hotel, central Area, Abuja Nigeria.

This event brings together speakers from all over the world with great experience in web, business, e-Commerce, Telcoms and Open Source. Among the speakers lined up for this year’s event are; Kuba Zwolinski, the Vice President of Magento Organisation and CEO of Snow.Dog a mobile and commerce agency and Job Thomas, education lead and a team from Automatic, engineers and developers from Automatic.

Come attend eye-opening workshops, get strategies for your business and network with creative minds and professionals in the industry. At the summit, you will be treated to, 2 days of activities, 30 speakers and 40 sessions.

One day is never enough for the awesomeness happens at CMS Africa summit. So the summit will take you through two full days of coveted industry talks and workshops. Disrupting old ideas and enforcing new ones while taking you through what moves the IT world. The summit has put together the most versatile speakers we’ve ever landed; They’re not just highly regarded. They run their own companies. They know about business. They understand concepts. They drive the world economy.

We’re covering Disruption, e-commerce, Leadership, Marketing, Mobile, Social, Startups, Tech, UX.  CMS Africa is a Non-governmental organisation that seeks to engage and support students, graduates and start-ups that deal with web applications, frameworks and platforms using open source content management systems.

CMS Africa is a collaboration and partnership between companies (directly dealing with building websites, platforms, applications, and other related professions), and universities/colleges to help build students and graduates in their passionate desires to join in the movement of uplifting the African Continent through content management systems

Registration is on at http://www.summit.cmsafrica.org and you cam follow up the developing events at the CMS Africa secritariat @ http://www.cmsafrica.org.

 

 

 

 


Remembering Marshall McLuhan.

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“The late Marshall McLuhan, a media and communication theorist, coined the termglobal village” in 1964 to describe the phenomenon of the world’s culture shrinking and expanding at the same time due to pervasive technological advances that allow for instantaneous sharing of culture”.

Imagine the vast spectrum of all the cultures in the world. Listen to the music—from the gentle drum beats of Africa, to the melodic didgeridoo of Australia, to the scream of the electric guitar. Taste the curry from India, the coconut milk from Thailand, the cheeseburger from the United States. Now imagine that all these cultures are compressed into one super-culture.

Marshall Mc Luhan the visionary media theorist who gave us the phrases “global village” and “the medium is the message,” was born a century ago.  At the time, McLuhan’s journey from obscure Canadian English professor to world famous sage was almost complete.  He was the first to tell IBM, for example, that they were not in the machine business, but the information business. Today, the term “information technology” is commonplace, but fifty years ago it was a revolutionary idea.

It is no exaggeration to say that McLuhan also predicted the internet. While other futurists declared that computers could lead to either utopia or Big Brother, McLuhan quietly anticipated Facebook and Twitter. Writing in 1967, thirteen years before the first Web site even went live, McLuhan got the trivial, distracting qualities of our digital life just right. He told us there would someday be “one big gossip column,” powered by an “electronically computerized dossier bank,” that would keep an uneraseable record of our tiniest actions. This would be the background noise against which our lives would play out.

How did McLuhan attain such foresight? Through “pattern recognition,” yet another phrase we owe to him. As a way of thinking, it is an excellent tool for survival in a world of information overload. In pattern recognition, facts are less important than the patterns they reveal, and comprehension takes a back seat to intuition. It is a skill we have all had to learn just to keep pace in our jobs and our lives, though not everybody can apply it as widely and effortlessly as McLuhan did.

It is a fact of nature that animals that are in danger of being eaten watch everything at once. Prey species-cows, sheep, gazelles, zebras-warily scan their surroundings, never riveting on a single object. Only predators point with their eyes. Hawks, wolves, tigers-and humans-gaze directly at what they want to eat, or ponder. Consequently computer scientists are designing machines that can monitor what we`re looking at. Stare at any part of the monitor screen, and the machine responds.

When used today, “global village” usually has positive connotations. As media and commerce make us more interconnected, the argument goes, the world shrinks into a peaceful, prosperous, global village. But McLuhan did not think of the global village as a happy place at all. He saw it as a place of terror, the home we would all have to move to when electronic media had finished re-tribalizing us.

The last ten years conform painfully with McLuhan’s predictions. High hopes for globalization have given way to what seems now like permanent economic uncertainty. Privacy has become harder to manage in the age of social media, and may even seem old-fashioned to the rising generation. The War on Terror is still officially being waged, and is perhaps the most McLuhan-esque feature of the present.

Since it began in 2001, the War on Terror has slowly become one of those assumptions behind every news story — part of the media environment that we step into every day, as McLuhan once famously said, “like a warm bath.” The News of the World hacking scandal, with its terrible crime, invasion of privacy, global scope, and empowered popular outcry could be the perfect illustration of all of McLuhan’s ideas operating at once.


Spreading the Web

Can free public WiFi access become an election issue? It should. Nairobi is one of the big city that has been slow in free WiFi. WiFi is a short-range wireless network. Its already offered is public places such as restaurants, shopping malls and hotels sometimes at a fee. The rise in adoption of smart phones has resulted in a spike in data usage, and the demand for fast and reliable broadband network has soared.

The ICT Authority for the last three years have connected all the counties with broadband. Most public schools are now connected to electricity, 22,000 of them, all around the country. The county representatives in Nairobi are planning to tusk the city authorities to make some key parts of Nairobi CBD WiFi accessible. WiFi is increasingly offered in places as divergent as malls, schools, taxis and buses.

A study by IBM-TechKnowledge has found that there are no public hotspots in the whole city of Nairobi, which is a sad reality, considering the fact that the governments push for more access to the internet. When you look at the giant mobile companies, who are making billions out of their business, its impossible to believe that they have not thought for a second the impact of creating hotspots for the public. Access to the internet has a 4% increase to the GDB, this should be taken seriously.

While the legislators brainstorm on how to make Nairobi a public hotspot, its our desire that this is a promise that will be kept, and that the public will be able to access at least 50MB of data per day. This will increase the internet usage especially in accessing government services online. Today, Kenyan government has gone online with portals like ecitizen, where you can access services like, renewing your drivers license, ID card, etc. and with making broadband available to its citizen, more people will use that to access some of this services.

As Kenya goes to polls in 2017, this should be an election issues, especially in under-served areas and cosmopolitans. Promises have been made, and we will follow it up to the new age.