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Lack of privacy is the new normal; let’s embrace it

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FAITH ONEYA

By FAITH ONEYA
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The line between privacy and lack of it on the internet is growing thinner and blurrier every day.

This has become the social and cultural norm. We don’t own our online lives and it’s about time we accepted it. At its molten core, the internet is good for us.

It has made the world flat and changed regimes through hashtags. It has given a few lucky ones their millions or billions. Some have found love in those corridors.

Facebook Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg, who has arguably made his wealth from invading people’s privacy, including sharing data with third parties, might not have predicted how ripe the Kenyan market would be for this invasion, now that a new report has revealed that Kenyans don’t really care that much about privacy, despite their loud protests to the contrary.

Whatever Zuckerberg and company do with our data is our fault too, as we enabled them by clicking “I Accept” without reading the fine print.

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The “Digital Economy Report 2019” by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development shows that only 44 per cent of internet users in Kenya are concerned about their online privacy, compared with over 90 per cent in Egypt, Hong Kong, India, Mexico and Nigeria.

The lack of concern about privacy among a majority of Kenyans places them at the risk of being easy targets of cybercriminals.

The report refers to this as a “data privacy paradox”, whereby users give away personal data and thus their privacy in exchange for different services.

Does this sound familiar? The Communications Authority of Kenya recently reported that cyberattacks are growing and the Daily Nation’s Newsplex team, in a story published in May 2019, warned that the talent pool of defenders is not keeping pace.

This is alarming by many measures. During the just-concluded census, a section of netizens expressed their discomfort with giving enumerators their passport and/or identity card numbers.

Human rights group Amnesty International chimed in on this issue, advising Kenyans that giving this information was supposed to be voluntary.

Concerns were voiced too about the government’s ability to safeguard such personal details.

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If you are on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, then you must have received daily, if not hourly, invitations to syrupy moments of strangers and friends or family eating, drinking, sleeping, holidaying and generally living their carefully edited and photoshopped lives.

You might also have been invited to someone’s labour room. There are breakfasts, lunches and dinners you may have “eaten with your eyes” or with clicks of your computer mouse.

Or perhaps you were invited to their lemony moments too. Moments of grief or despair.

You might have virtually attended a funeral with no information on who the dead person was.

You may have liked a funeral selfie too. One could argue that the whole point of social media is to help people connect, even if it means inviting strangers to your living room.

But this, too, is contestable, as the pernicious effects of social media, like its link to mental illness, can’t be ignored. Or being the space where individuals have been mercilessly pilloried.

There are arguments made for and against sharing private lives on the internet, but the point is that grumbling about lack of privacy while gleefully posting private moments online is absurd.

The idea of privacy in the age of the internet and smartphones is a myth. If people are so concerned about privacy, then perhaps they shouldn’t be online at all. Too late for that because, as they say, the internet never forgets.

Since we are trading our privacy for likes, swipes and comments or whatever other need it satisfies, we might as well get comfortable with the idea that privacy ended the minute we signed up for that Yahoo or Hotmail address.

So, instead of complaining about privacy – or lack of it – since there seems to be little distinction between the two, it’s better to brace ourselves for a long, privacy-free internet ride and operate with a simple golden rule: If you can’t show it to your mother, don’t show it to the world.

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Ensure upgrade of schools is executed

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EDITORIAL

By EDITORIAL
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The government plan to spend Sh8.2 billion to upgrade infrastructure in secondary schools in 30 counties sounds prudent and timely.

It’s in line with the campaign to achieve 100 per cent transition from primary to secondary schools and promises better learning and living conditions for thousands of learners countrywide.

Last week, a majority of the 1,083,456 learners who sat the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education last year — the highest number in five years — reported to their new schools, adding a fresh load to institutions that are grappling with massive congestion, dilapidated facilities and a crippling teacher shortage.

The upgrade plan is, therefore, urgent. Since the 100 per cent transition campaign was introduced in 2017, thousands of learners who have been dropping out school due to poverty, parents’ ignorance or the lure of cheap labour and crime have been enrolled in secondary schools.

But the flip side is that the learning conditions in schools are hardly the kind that would motivate students to stay on for four years.

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The media have been awash with stories of students crammed in classrooms with creaky desks, schools without dining facilities, or libraries and laboratories shorn of adequate books and equipment.

Such misery makes learning a punishment to run away from rather than an activity to enjoy or look forward to.

This is why the government needs to walk the talk. It’s one thing to promise an infrastructure overhaul and quite another to execute it.

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If the money is available, the work must begin with the speed of an emergency call.

Still, the upgrade must be spread to all the 47 counties because the problems are the same and as urgent everywhere.

This should be a start of a long-term plan to uplift infrastructure in all public secondary schools.

In addition, the government must sort out the teacher shortage, which promises to worsen this year.

Already, the basic education sector is in dire need of more than 100,000 teachers — a cruel irony as learners are increasing while the teaching force shrinks.

All these problems come at a time when the government is rolling out the Competency-Based Curriculum to replace the 8-4-4 system, with the ultimate goal of giving learners better work opportunities through the recognition and development of their unique talents within the school set-up.

Unless these challenges are resolved decisively, most parents who can afford it will move their children to private schools, which will in turn cash in on the demand to raise their fees unreasonably, while the majority of learners will be left behind. That would be a huge blow to the 100 per cent transition policy.

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Tough task for basketballers – Daily Nation

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EDITORIAL

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On Saturday, Kenya men’s basketball team beat South Sudan in the final of Fiba Afro-Basketball Championship pre-qualifiers at Nyayo National Stadium Gymnasium in Nairobi.

As the team reached the final unbeaten, against South Sudan, easily the toughest team in the tournament, some local fans had to be turned away from the venue, indicating that Kenyans are hungry for high-quality basketball action.

Kenya Morans will now take on Senegal, Angola and Mozambique in Pool ‘A’ of the qualifiers proper in Rwanda in March.

The top three teams from the qualifiers will play in the 2021 Fiba Afro-Basketball Championships in Rwanda in August.

In recent years, Kenya has made gains in basketball. Notably, they beat Egypt to win Africa Zone Five title last year and also reached the final of 2019 AfroCan Basketball Championship in Mali, where they narrowly lose to DR Congo.

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The team’s performance is encouraging and points to the huge potential Kenya has in basketball.

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With proper management, the team can go places. This is why Kenya Basketball Federation (KBF) must put its act together and organise a robust league devoid of fixtures congestion and last-minute match cancellations.

The week-long Fiba Afro-Basketball Championship pre-qualifiers also faced a number of challenges. For instance, there was poor planning of matches. The final match also suffered from poor crowd control.

Probably, the championship should have been hosted at Kasarani Indoor Gymnasium instead of Nyayo, which has limited capacity.

Hosting major sporting events requires proper planning and coordination, and KBF must address the shortfalls witnessed at this event if Kenya is to host such championships in future.

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Why Kenya can never go the Russia way

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SIMON MWANGI

By SIMON MWANGI
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On January 14, The Times, a UK-based newspaper, ran an interesting opinion piece by Rick Broadbent titled “Is it time for disgraced Kenya to follow Russia in exile?”

It said how Kenyan athletes continue being cited for anti-doping rule violations (ADRVs), the most recent case being the provisional suspension of former world marathon record holder Wilson Kipsang.

Indeed, the growing numbers of Kenyan elite runners being flagged for anti-doping transgressions should sound a warning bell to sports administrators.

However, the country cannot get to the Russian level because of various glaring reasons.

A 2017 study by the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) concluded that “doping practices by Kenyan athletes are unsophisticated, uncoordinated and opportunistic”.

This means the country has never tinkered with putting in place an elaborate doping machinery.

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Russia’s State-sponsored doping resulted in the stripping of 43 medals from the country’s athletes so far — the largest number ever for any nation.

Investigations by Wada and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) had revealed ‘systematic doping’ allegedly orchestrated by KGB officials posing as anti-doping personnel.

Last year, Wada banned Russia from all major sporting events for four years. For Kenya, anti-doping samples are shipped to Qatar and South Africa for analysis.

This means there are no mediating factors between the times the sample is provided to when it arrives at the laboratory to the time when the results are relayed to the Anti-Doping Agency of Kenya (Adak).

Similarly, Kenyan anti-doping officials are continually trained by some of the world’s leading anti-doping organisations such as the UK anti-Doping (Ukad) and Norwegian body-Anti-Doping Norway (Adno).

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Together with other athletics powerhouses such as Ethiopia, Kenya is ranked by the World Athletics among the countries with the highest risk of doping.

But on the flip side, this could be attributed to the fact that Kenya boasts an unrivalled pool of talent in athletics.

Broadbent quotes Brendan Foster, a European champion and bronze medallist in the 1970s, who rightly notes that world record-shattering performances nowadays by hitherto unknown athletes raise more questions than answers.

However, Kenya featured nowhere in the top 10 in a 2016 Wada report ranking athlete nationalities with the highest number of ADRVs.

Ironically, the report placed athletics as the sport with the highest number of ADRVs by athletes.

Unbeknownst to the writer, Kenya has cooperated with the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU), the global body charged with protecting integrity in athletics, to the extent that there have been two joint anti-doping education sessions between it and Adak for athletes and coaches in Nairobi and Eldoret.

Lastly, Kenya stared at being barred from participating in the 2016 Rio Olympics in Brazil, not because it was doing nothing about doping but it was at risk of missing strict deadlines in establishing a robust anti-doping programme.

MPs were recalled from recess to pass the Anti-Doping Act 2016, which established Adak.

Mr Mwangi is a former head of corporate communications at the Anti-Doping Agency of Kenya (Adak). [email protected]

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