Robert Alai is a Kenyan blogger and social justice activist. He is the founder of leading tech blog techmtaa, a trained ICT System Analyst and self-appointed critic. Robert was born and raised in a village in Kisumu county. He still believes that he is a simple villager who is challenging the status quo enjoyed by the upper and middle class.
1. What was your first phone?
Ericsson 1018. I won it while in college and when I went with it to shags, my dad decided to buy it from me at Ksh 3,000.
2. What do you prefer? Facebook or Twitter? Why?
Twitter. It is not so personal and I have a bigger audience plus I can easily reach a wider audience. Facebook is trying to compete with the subscription service but Twitter still rocks. For my blog, Facebook delivers the highest number of visitors. Tweeps love to retweet and tweet back but few click and visit the links. I guess it is because most access Twitter through mobile.
3. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
I will be one of the biggest players in the new media and I will comfortably be earning millions through it by earning acceptance and not just winning competitions arranged by friends.
4. Any question for us? We’ll publish our answer as well
What do you think of the digital reader-base?
It is low in this part of the world when compared to the West but it is growing rapidly but unfortunately local content isn’t growing at the same rate.
Why are many African publishers not embracing it?
Most of them are still stuck in the old ways which is truly unfortunate.
Do you see the death of physical books?
I don’t think so. I think genuine readers will consume content in the way it is easily available. If a physical book is easier to get then they will buy it and if an ebook happens to be easier to get then the same will happen.
5. What would you do if you were president for a day?
First I would sack all current ministers and hire ten new ones. Most of the current ministries would just be departments. I would then change the face of security by sacking the current top brass, hiring new commanders and approving the equipping of the police force for better urban policing. I would then make sure that I push parliament to rubber-stamp every decision so nobody would reverse my actions by the end of the day.
6. What’s your favourite book & movie?
I was so addicted to books by Robert Ludlum, John Grisham and Dale Brown. I loved reading spy stories from the likes of John Le Carre. I now read magazines on the iPad, TED Books and listen to audio books while travelling.
My best movie to date still is The Shawshank Redemption which I watched in the 90s. The Casino might just be my second best.
7. Who/What inspired you to do what you do now?
My dad inspired me. He brought me up in a military like discipline but I began to rebel from class five. I have always rebelled against any form of order which people follow like sheep. I found great inspiration in Steve Jobs when he said ” Why join the navy if you can be a pirate?”. I will always be myself and no platform gives me the ability to do so like the internet.
8. If you were to change jobs, what profession would you get into? Why?
I would be a teacher. I have the greatest respect for teachers, doctors and policemen in that order. I always visit my former teachers in primary and secondary schools because they made me what I am.
9.If you had a superpower, what would it be?
To fly. I get lots of engagements and sometimes I feel like being omnipresent.
10. If you were deserted on an abandoned island what 5 things would you want to have?
- My iPad
I am a media person. I can make millions by just having the five with me.
11. If you were a car, what car would you like to be? Why?
BMW 7 series. It just have to be the F01/F02 model. No car can beat the BMW in my opinion. I read widely and participate in online BMW forums because I just love their cars. When I bought my first BMW (320i made in 1985 – E30), I bought a complete manual and learnt all about the car. I have owned a Mercedes Benz but still find BMW to be the ultimate driving machine.
12. If you could be in any band in the world, which one would you like to be in? Why?
The Bee Gees. My dad loved their music and always played their LPs as well as other artists like Atlantic Starr, The Commodores, Kenny Rogers, Whitaker, Harry Belafonte and Mick Jagger.
13. What’s the biggest challenge that bloggers face in Kenya when they want to monetize their blogs?
Currently most of the advertising and marketing agencies are not giving bloggers businesses because the bloggers have not actualised their business ideas or that the agencies feel that the bloggers can easily do with devices on loan.
14. Share something interesting about yourself with our readers.
I was named after my grand-father. The nick name of my grandfather, Robert Alai, was “Nyokwongi” and it is still my nickname. It means the one who is always ahead. It was read to get Luos born in the 1800s named in Robert but my granny was. He used to brag how he gave birth to every profession in Kenya. So to all my friends and enemies, Alai will always be a Nyokwongi.