Monthly Archives: March 2012

M-Maji Launch: A USSD application to improve clean water access in the slums

It’s not every day that a mobile application is launched to the accompaniment of songs, dances, and gymnastics. That’s exactly what happened at Sarangombe in Kibera, where a crowd gathered to launch M-Maji  (“mobile-water” in Swahili). M-Maji is a mobile phone-based water information system that aims to empower under-served communities with better information about water availability, price, and quality. Water vendors use their mobile phones to advertise on M-Maji and water buyers query the M-Maji database to find the closest, cheapest, and cleanest water. All this is free and accessible on even the most basic GSM phones.
M-Maji was developed by Weza Tele, a visionary firm that applies mobile technologies such as USSD, Mobile Web, and SMS to solve problems. Weza Tele teamed up with a group of Stanford students, as well as Umande Trust, an organization based in Kibera that addresses water and sanitation issues. Because M-Maji is a novel approach to improving clean water access, it was critical to conduct a randomized, controlled evaluation of our system. Weza Tele’s contribution to M-Maji involved requirements analysis, design, development, prototyping and testing.

The problem:

When water is scarce, a resident of Kibera may trek for miles in search of it with no guarantee of success. Simply finding the water takes up valuable time and energy. M-Maji makes it possible for vendors to advertise for clean water at specific landmarks and allow customers to be able to look up the places where they can find water vendors in their specific location through the use of  the mobile phone.

How M-Maji works

Step 1: At the start of each day, water vendors notify M-Maji via USSD (Unstructured Supplementary Service Data) that they have water to sell, the price they are selling it for,and where they are selling it. They also have the option to advertise whether or not their water is purified. All of these vendor notifications from across Kibera are collected and stored in a central M-Maji database in real-time.
Step 2: Water buyers who are searching for water initiate a USSD session with M-Maji,  through which they obtain a location-relevant listing of local water vendors who have water to sell, their price, location, and vendor ratings.
Step 3: If a water buyer subsequently finds out that a vendor misreported water availability, price, or quality, the buyer can file a complaint with M-Maji via USSD. The database will keep track of complaints and alert future buyers of such negative histories through the use of vendor ratings.

Today’s launch
The launch had the honor of hosting government officials such as Chairman of ODM Mr. Ombongo, Area Chief of Sarangombe Mr. Ongweso, Area councillor Kodiao, Chief of Makina Christine Lithwa also availed herself. There were also Stakeholder representatives from Umande Trust among the few were Musimi Boni. Stanford University was also represented by Professors Joshua Cohen and Terry Winograd.

The launch was breathtaking filled with entertainment from the Kibera Hamlet school who brought a splash of colors to the day with their acrobatic dances and flexible moves, a musician spoke about the importance of water and marveled the crowd. Songs were sung by local primary schools from Kibera, a play was done to showcase the lifestyle of water vendors who were faced with obstacles from harsh customers who complained about the quality of water.

Mr. Ongweso the Area Chief of Kibera talked about some few challenges that Kibera inhabitants faced. He addressed the issue of contaminated water being something that could be controlled if people took responsibilities of where they dispose waste. He said Sarangombe has five tanks for water and pipes that direct water to different locations however, people always interfere with them and cut them so as to get water. This exposes the clean water to germs and external waste that could as a result cause diseases.
Vendor registration was also being initiated at the launch where we had different vendors putting down their phone numbers and location so as to be part of the system. Customers who wanted more explanation of how M-Maji works were also putting down their names and numbers so as to be given a text of how it actually functions. However, a practical demonstration was done to everyone  who came on the simple process of M-Maji.

Although the code was not activated the people were excited and anticipated the new solution of water access. They were informed of its soon activation and embraced it positively.


Design Thinking Workshop at iHub

It was a super cool and interactive workshop with Terry and Joshua from Stanford and Dan from University of Nairobi.  If you are a techpreneur,researcher, a designer and you did not attend this workshop then you missed out! We learnt a bunch of interesting and eye-opening things.

The workshop started off with an interactive session entitled ‘The Wallet Project’ , an immersive activity meant to give participants a full cycle through the design thinking process in as short  time period as possible. The project itself gave facilitators the opportunity to touch on the fundamental values of the that include:

  • Human-centered design: Empathy for the person or people you are designing for, and feedback from users, is fundamental to good design.
  • Experimentation and Prototyping—Prototyping is not simply a way to validate your idea; it is an integral part of your innovation process. We build to think and learn.
  • A bias towards action: Design thinking is a misnomer; it is more about doing than thinking. Bias toward doing and making over thinking and meeting.
  • Show don’t tell: Creating experiences, using illustrative visuals, and telling good stories communicate your vision in an impactful and meaningful way.
  • Power of iteration: The reason we go through this exercise at a frantic pace is for people  to experience a full design cycle. A person’s fluency with design thinking is a function of cycles,  participants are challenged to go through as many cycles as possible—interview twice, sketch twice, and test with their  partner twice. Additionally, iterating solutions many times within a project is key to successful outcomes.

In the second phase of the workshop, the team went out to understand how designers approach problems to try to solve them, that way, individuals and businesses will be able to connect with and invigorate their ideation processes in order to take innovation to a higher level. Teams of 8 had interviews with ‘Mama Njoroge’s’ to find out what they need and possible solutions. The teams got interesting findings such as:

  • Lack of proper roads to transport their products and services
  • Lack of storage facilities and lots of food wastage
  • Lack of an ordering platform to advertise and the vendors to get more traffic for their products
  • Insecurity and no community policing
  • No proper water and sanitation facilities
  • Insufficient capital and financing for business expansion

Summary points:

  • Point of view= user + need + insight, this is the anchor/focused challenge that grows from empathy.
  • Often you could build on a bad idea and get a good one that relates to it
  • Design thinking is all about: Imagination! Empathy! Reframing the problem! Generate alternatives! Iterate based on feedback! Build and test!
  • Fail Early, Fail often then learn from that!
  • The fundamental way to test prototypes is by letting users experience them and react to as well as your perception of your users and their needs.

Market Survey to Understand Kenyan Consumer Ordering Habits



For the last one month we have been busy! Working to meet clients technical needs and most important working on our MyOrder platform, a mobile commerce ordering and payment platform that facilitates sellers, retailers and distributors/delivery companies to connect and order efficiently from  each other via a mobile commerce platform.

As Weza Tele develops the platform, there is a pressing need to conduct a market survey research in order to understand the consumer ordering habits and how the delivery component works.Weza Tele in collaboration with iHub Research are currently conducting an on-going  pre-test research study that will demystify consumer ordering habits in the mobile commerce space in Kenya.

The aim of the market research is to help evaluate and understand the consumer ordering habits and the delivery/distribution mechanisms currently in place. This study will help in enhancing and tweaking the MyOrder platform to better serve the users .The data derived from this study will also be valuable to other  e-commerce companies and companies hoping to expand into the mobile commerce sector.

This study will constitute 5 research questions to determine the current ordering processes being utilised in the service chain:

  • What are the current ordering processes in place?
  • What are the current delivery/distribution processes in place?
  • How do consumers prefer to order for their products/service using the different platforms, e.g Mobile phone devices, Desktop, Pick up, phone call orders?
  • What would people order using their preferred platform?
  • Would consumers prefer their orders to be delivered or picked up?

A mix of methodologies will be used to conduct this research  including but not limited to: In-depth interviews, survey questionnaires, observations and desk research. The pre-test study will focus on Nairobi location.Weza Tele  will be collecting the data from the full target sample this week and thereafter releasing findings . Stay tuned for our findings!

For more information/queries about this research, feel free to contact us at