I told my guide Barry that I hadn’t seen any electronics workshops yet, and he knew just where to go. The first stop was Modern Electronics in Kawangware, where entrepreneur John repairs TVs, radios, and amplifiers. He was trained informally by a friend and has been running this business for four years. He also offers battery charging services.
The culture of reuse and repair is alive and well in the electronics sector.
John also makes amplifiers from scratch, like this one. He learns new circuit designs from his more skilled friends who reverse engineer electronics from India.
William runs a small kiosk in Kawangware called Nyaka Mobile Repair. In addition to selling mobile accessories, he repairs phones.
Despite his limited premises, his advantage is a Lukey 883, an advanced piece of machinery that allows him to add and remove integrated circuits (ICs). The machine, which he received as a gift, cost about KSH8000 (USD105) but has since come down in price and he hopes to purchase another. In the meantime, he just has to get this one fixed.
William keeps a handy supply of mobile scraps on hand for replacement parts, but will go to the local hardware store for ICs he doesn’t keep in stock.
Daniel runs an electronics repair shop near Racecourse. Unlike the John and William, he is formally trained at a polytechnic. He says that those who are untrained typically don’t know where to start when fixing electronics and will hack at different parts until it’s fixed. He saves time and money by testing once and knowing immediately what is wrong.
Daniel’s shop has only been open for one year, but because of a KSH50,000 (USD670) loan from a friend he was able to start a cyber cafe in the shop. He has already paid off half the loan and has three computers available, purchased second hand at KSH15,000 (USD200) each and paid in weekly installments of KSH500 (USD7). When he grows to ten computers, he says, he will expand his business by starting a training center to run computer courses for youth.
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Making Do is an investigation into systems of innovation in Kenya's informal economy. Learn more and read the book online or in print here.
I'm Steve Daniels. I study the transformative impact of technology on individuals and societies. I am the founder of the Better World by Design conference at Brown University and the Rhode Island School of Design and Analogue Digital, a publisher of content related to global cultures of technology. Currently, I work at IBM Research, where I study mobile social computing in emerging markets.
I am particularly interested in how people create, adapt, and use technology in resource-constrained environments, which I have written about in Making Do: Innovation in Kenya's Informal Economy.
- Emerging Futures Lab
- Future Perfect
- Information Aesthetics
- Maker Faire Africa
- Smarter Planet
- Timbuktu Chronicles
- White African