TechCamp Namibia 2018

TechCamp 2018

TechCamp Namibia is a working workshop sponsored and organized by the United States State Department under the Bureau of International Information Programs focusing on cybersecurity and cybercrimes issues where participants are expected to contribute in the discussions and creating necessary resolutions and blueprints for further works. The workshop was divided into five parallel tracks namely Citizen Protection, Policy Issues, Law Enforcement Issues, Industry Growth and Cybersecurity Education. Each track was assisted by two experts, from International and Regional countries. The theme for this TechCamp is “Cybersecurity for everyone”.

Namibia University of Science and Technology is the highest ranked university in Namibia and also has cyber security degrees at bachelors and masters level. They hosted this TechCamp supported by the US Embassy in Namibia and the US State Department. The program brought together participants from across Africa and trainers from all over the world.

Summary of TechCamp Namibia:

Day 1:

There were welcome remarks from the Chief of Staff at the US /Namibia Embassy. The host from Namibia University of Science & Technology (NUST), introduced our working area/tasks they were divided into 4 areas:

  1. Policy
  2. Education
  3. Law enforcement
  4. Citizen Protection
  5. Industry/Private Sector

 

The US State Department highlighted that there would be Possible Funding for solutions suggested during the TechCamp and there would also be opportunity to connect with experts in cybersecurity

 

I joined the Education group on Day One

Our main talking points were about cybersecurity within the education Sector. It was a multi participant led discussion on the following topics:

  1. What’s Going on in cybersecurity
  2. Security Awareness
    1. Laws in security
  3. Tools for Cyber Awareness
  4. Who is Responsible for the Data?
    1. Privacy of data In the Cloud
  5. How do we protect our networks?
  6. Educational Portal
  7. How to protect education networks
  8. How do we educate the people in terms of cybersecurity?

 

Several initiative where discussed such as the Google Safe and the Namibia Child Online Safety Project, which was later proposed that HIT might want to partner with UNICEF in the project. I am in the process of contacting relevant authorities on the matter.

Day 2:

Dr Anika Peters, the Dean of the School of Computing gave an address on the local overview of Cybersecurity in Namibia and how the gestation period for policy framework took 10 years. This led to the delay in the Cybersecurity law being approved.

I attended the Threat Intelligence Session.

The trainer John Haley, Cybersecurity Director from Capitol One Bank in the USA, advocated for applying a proactive approach to Cyber Defence.

 

Key points from the Threat Intelligence Session:

Alert Development – Get Data and create alerts and threat hunting

 

Threat Hunting – proactively collecting Data from many sources

  1. Every endpoint
  2. Every network flow
  3. Every persons computer
  4. Data Lakes

 

Correlation of data from multiple data sources is key to paint a picture of who what where, how and who. Cyber Intelligence is key to fuel threat detection to fuel Tactics Techniques and Procedures, Campaigns and Actors.

Tools for collecting data

  • Snowflake threat intelligence
  • Log Aggregation Tools – Splunk , Elastic Search
  • Purple Ring
  • Variato
  • DTex
  • Infoblocks
  • MISP
  • ISEC

 

 

Cyber Intelligence Sources

  • Internet Storm Center – SANS
  • Dark Reading –
  • Black Hills InfoSec

 

Duties of the Center for Machine Learning within Capitol One

  • Analyse Data for InfoSec
  • Automation of Cyber Operations

 

Day 3:

We had to collectively come up with specific challenges to tackle as part of the Threat Intelligence Team. We came up with the following objectives and solutions.

Objectives

  1. Create Threat Intelligence team for information sharing and gathering, and threat hunting.
    1. Industry Level
    2. National Level
    3. Regional Level – SADC
  2. Implementation of various strategies of Information Gathering
    1. Creating public vulnerability database
    2. Honeypots
    3. Surveys
    4. Stakeholders reporting incidents
  3. Information Sharing
    1. Creation industry/ sector information domes
    2. Setup of cross platform information sharing infrastructure

Projects

  1. Industry specific baseline survey on Cybersecurity and threat management
  2. Presentation of Findings and Recommendations – Proposal for creation of sector certs to stakeholders.
  3. Establishment of MOUs and standard operational procedures to share information.
  4. Creation of Industry wide CIRT
  5. Implementation of strategies from information gathering
    1. Threat Intelligence Portal
    2. Creating public vulnerability database
    3. Honeypots
    4. Surveys
    5. Stakeholders reporting incidents
  6. Implementation Continuous Programs
    1. Workshops
    2. Awareness
    3. Cyber Security Competitions
    4. Workshops
  7. Create a Cyber Security Framework and Standards

I was elected to present our solution to the gathering on behalf of the threat intelligence team.

Day 4:

Two representatives from the threat intelligence team presented the solutions we had proposed to the Namibian Parliament.

PyCon Namibia 2018

I had the privilege to attend Pycon Namibia 2018. My travel was sponsored by a grant from the Django Society UK, of which i am very grateful.

Python Zimbabwe Team, Kuda (left), Anna (center) & Myself Tendai ( right)

PyCon is a conference for the Python programming community. Previously i had only attended 2 previous Pycons, both in zimbabwe the first in 2016 as a speaker and then the follow-up in 2017 as both speaker and organiser.

 

 

 

Day 1

The first lesson i learnt is never book a flight on the first day of the conference. We had an Air Namibia flight delay of 2 hours causing us to arrive around lunch on day 1.

I managed to catch the one of the best presentations of the conference by Daniele Procida, he had a practical walkthrough of how to organise and structure a budget and planning for a PyCon. It was a very informative talk which shall be of great assistance in or future Pycons that we will host.

After Daniele then came the lighting talks, these are always fun filled and we saw a large number of people wishing to share their findings and ideas.

Day 2

Anna Makarudze & Kudakwashe Siziva presented on the duo combination of Django & Angularjs (Djangular) – their technical workshop was almost hampered by internet connectivity problems. Which is a common problem at technical conferences and a point noted to create a lan server for speakers to pre-install relevant documents/ software and have participants pull/download from a local repository to circumvent internet issues.

I went on to present my workshop on Data Analysis with Jupiter, i have used Anaconda extensively in my lectures/labs/tutorials and it was a joy being able to show people how the could automate mundane day to day data analytics. Most felt they would continue exploration of data science after the workshop.

One of the highlights of the entire conference was a young boy Berhane Wheeler who came in with his mom in tow to cheer him as he gave  workshop on how to build a guessing game in python. He is an inspiration to many, at barely 13 years old he already knows programming. A feat that attests to the usability and versatility of Python as a language.

Day 2 ended with the usual lighting talks.

Day 3

Marlene Mhangami presented on the growth of the Python Community in Africa, as well as the hope for a pan-African PyCon. After came Ngatatue Mate who serenaded everyone with Python in Music, my biggest take away was for introductory courses to Python i feel one of the music problems would be an ideal project for beginners to quickly make something that is tangible and retain interest in the language, i feel it is something that will become a part of our tutorials.

After that i attended the talk on Virtual Reality by Candy Tricia Khohliwe from Bostwana, it was her first python talk and she is a Mozilla Volunteer, it was great seeing that Python is growing within the region. A Whatsapp group was created with includes Pythonistas from Nigeria, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, and it mainly assists in helping foster Python growth on the sub-continent and the members will try to assist in creating new communities.

I then proceeded to present my Talk, moderated by Dr Vince, i gave a summary of activities we conduct at Harare Institute of Technology using Python,  as well as the growth in adoption of the language with various universities in Zimbabwe.

Over the past year after, Pycon Zimbabwe 2016, we introduced a dedicated Python course, and assisted in the founding of Zimbopy, where i assist as a University Coordinator, identifying students to undergo mentoring and other Zimbopy activities. After PyCon Zimbabwe 2017, i founded the HIT Python Developers club, together with Zimbopy we carried out the first workshop with Florian from Sandtable & his friend Roman.

Lighting Talks Final Day

The lighting talks on the final day were brilliant, one of the takeaways was Dr Vince’s talk on Latex, it was a brief introduction teaching how to use latex to have properly formatted documents. Anna

 

 

 

My experience from Pycon Namibia has helped me appreciate what a properly coordinated conference looks like,  and our hope is that as Pycon Zimbabwe we will be able to reach the levels of success that Namibia has attained.

My biggest take away from the conference was an urgent need to build something of our own. My line of thought goes something like this; We are expanding our footprint and creating wealth of knowledge and teaching people how to program. I feel as African Pythonistas we need to create flagship products, i.e our own open-source projects. So my aim is to create a flagship open source project from Python Zimbabwe, to be exhibited at PyCon Zimbabwe 2019. Currently submissions are open for ideas.

I intend to go to to one of the upcoming West African Conferences in 2019/2020.

My humble thanks to everybody at the Django Society UK for sponsoring my trip. And thanks to the organisers and sponsors of PyCon Namibia.

A Dream Deferred

One of my favorite phrases is ” A Dream Deferred” – i first came across this phrase some years back when i read Thabo Mbeki  biography by Mark Gevisser.

We are at a precarious juncture in the journey of our nation, where it can go either way, but i am hopeful for the best outcome. I felt its necessary to reflect on a beautiful poem by Langston Hughes. In the poem Harlem, Langston helps readers contemplate their dreams and what it means to postpone them. As such, the poem is often referred to as “Dream Deferred”. We are a generation that had many dreams and aspirations which were lost along the way.  I hope for a better Zimbabwe and hope it shall not become a dream deferred. Read the poem below:

Harlem

By Langston Hughes
What happens to a dream deferred?
      Does it dry up
      like a raisin in the sun?
      Or fester like a sore—
      And then run?
      Does it stink like rotten meat?
      Or crust and sugar over—
      like a syrupy sweet?
      Maybe it just sags
      like a heavy load.
      Or does it explode?

Imitation as a form progress

In 2012 i wrote an opinion article for Techzim, in which i advocated the need for Zimbabwean entrepreneurs to imitate as a form of progress, i feel this still rings true as we come into a new dispensation in Zimbabwe. I revisited this article and the part which rang the most is a qoute from Peter Thiel.

Consider what China will be like in 50 years. The safe bet is it will be a lot like the United States is now. Cities will be copied, cars will be copied, and rail systems will be copied. Maybe some steps will be skipped. But it’s copying all the same. excerpt from Peter Thiel course on Startups.

N.B there is nothing wrong with innovation but most of the time it is not what is needed. Perhaps a solution which worked for a country with similar circumstances as ours would work for us as well.

Below is the Original article as posted on Techzim

A technological call to arms – let’s imitate to progress

Rocket Internet - The Clone Factory

What has been will be again,
What has been done will be done again;
There is nothing new under the sun – Ecclesiastes 1:9

I doubt that King Solomon could have imagined the technological strides that mankind would go on to make when he wrote those words, but part of his wisdom still applies today. What has been successful in the developed countries will be successful again, here in our own backyards.

Some local startups spend too much time trying to launch that killer service, the Facebooks, Googles and Twitters of the future. Although this is not necessarily a bad thing, they limit their options to what businesses they can partake in. It would be better if startups looked at successful models that work abroad, find them, copy, and modify them to make them work in our local environment.

Defining Progress

Peter Thiel (Co-Founder of PayPal) in one of his Stanford startup lectures described progress as follows:

Progress comes in two flavors: horizontal/extensive and vertical/intensive. Horizontal or extensive progress basically means copying things that work. In one word, it means simply “globalization.” Consider what China will be like in 50 years. The safe bet is it will be a lot like the United States is now. Cities will be copied, cars will be copied, and rail systems will be copied. Maybe some steps will be skipped. But it’s copying all the same.

Vertical or intensive progress, by contrast, means doing new things. The single word for this is “technology.” Intensive progress involves going from 0 to 1 (not simply the 1 to n of globalization).

So in this context, globalization is basically copying what works. This is what is missing in our local tech scene; the lack of extensive growth, copying solutions we know have worked elsewhere and implementing them here back at home. Instead of reinventing the wheel, we copy the wheel, put shiny rims on it, or making it smaller/bigger depending on our needs.

Making the case for Imitation in the technology space

Those who do not want to imitate anything, produce nothing. – Salvador Dali

Other entrepreneurs have tried and tested the copy-adjust-implement method and it has worked tremendously, and others have failed dismally. The successful names that quickly come to mind are that of the infamous Samwer brothers and their company Rocket Internet. And, of course, Samsung.

Rocket Internet – The Clone Factory

Rocket Internet - The Clone Factory

It is a German company founded by the Samwer brothers, they run a simple and straightforward operation. Armed with a lot of cash they find successful startups that have been tried and tested in the established markets and make clones of those exact businesses in emerging markets. They have cloned most of the popular apps in the USA, such as Stripe, Square, AirBnB, Groupon, eBay, and recently they entered the South African market withZando. Zando is an online retailer startup and has taken the South African market by storm. Rocket Internet also entered the Nigerian market in May this year with an Amazon clone.

Their business model is simple, copy-adjust-implement. It relies mainly on perfect execution in the region that they are targeting, so they hire local talents with expertise in the field in question and boom, a successful product is launched. By the time the popular successful startups want to expand to those regions, a fully capable enterprise will already be in place.

Samsung – The Great Imitator 

In 2007, Apple released the iconic iPhone and forever changed how we use and perceive mobile telephony. Mobile phone giants back then – Nokia and RIM – were caught napping, and have long been left behind by the tide of innovation. Samsung however, in true Darwinian fashion, copied the iPhone, only changing a few minor details resulting in huge profits for their company as well as earning the status as a company that can go head to head with the biggest companies in the world. The recent lawsuit loss does not even put a dent on their earnings.

The company’s decision to copy worked out well, they have transformed from the company that once made transistor radios to a global technology behemoth. Samsung’s model may not be one of mimicry anymore, but that is where they began and it bore fruit.

EcoCash
Econet’s m-money solution has managed to replicate M-Pesa and so far this has worked wonderfully for them. They actually report their product’s uptake rate being even much higher than M-Pesa.

Zimazon
They have also had some success, launching a modified version of the popular online shopping service Amazon and even naming it so, so we’re all clear about it. In true Samwer style they just changed the A in the name to Zi. Absolutely brilliant branding. With a slight change in the business model, they had a winner.

The argument against Imitation: Africa is not America/Asia/ Europe

I apologize for falling into the trapping that the international community usually falls into; talking about Africa collectively, but in this case I think you can forgive me.

When debating the issue of cloning in Africa, the opponents of the strategy always point out that Africa is not the West, and what works there may not work here. African VC Mbwana Alliy dissects the issue perfectly, he suggests that it mainly boils down to execution of the copied service, “A compelling product designed for the right audience in Africa and executed in a local manner is what works”.

Take for example the mobile payment problem; it is a universal problem that has been tackled differently in different markets. In the developed economies they have Square, PayPal, Google Wallet, T-money and many other variations of m-payment solutions. Here in the emerging economies, we have carrier led services such as M-Pesa, Eco-Cash, and Mxit Moola etc. All these system are intrinsically the same; they involve transferring funds from one entity to another, differing only in application and implementation.

In mobile payments we are generally copying solutions which work elsewhere and applying them to our locale, which is exactly what I’m advocating for. The initial successes Econet has had with EcoCash proves that this strategy works.

Imitation may not work in all areas, but it will be more successful than trying to implement original solutions. To the proponents of originality I’ll give them the words of Henry Miller

“And your way, is it really your way?
[…] What, moreover, can you call your own? The house you live in, the food you swallow, the clothes you wear — you neither built the house nor raised the food nor made the clothes.
[…] The same goes for your ideas. You moved into them ready-made.”
– Henry Miller, from an essay in the collection, ‘Stand Still Like a Hummingbird’

Conclusion

The benefits of living in a global village is that we do not have to think a lot, the hard part has already been done for us. Our task is not to find out the 0 to 1, but instead the 1 to n, let the technologically advanced worry about the new ideas.

If we take a close look we will see that most of our businesses and services are copies of successful ideas from the developed world. So why should we not take it a step further and replicate the established successful online and internet business.

I’ll follow up this article with a list of top startups dominating the world market that we can and should replicate.

Sources:

  1. Peter Thiels CS183: StartupClass 1 Notes Essay
  2. http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2012/05/10/marktwainhelenkellerplagiarismoriginality/
  3. http://afrinnovator.com/blog/2012/04/25/doesthecopytostrategyworkinafrica/
  4. http://posts.richoakley.com/post/rocketinternetrespect
  5. http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2012/05/11/henrymilleronoriginality/
Image: Rocket Internet