The Uganda elections are more or less over with less than 6 hours for the Uganda Electoral Commission (EC) to announce the results for the presidential elections.
Given all the time on our hands, with no social media, the team at Styx Technology Group designed the following alternative approach to independent electoral vote tallying for future elections that provides inbuilt mechanisms for audit and verification of results.
The primary data sources for the process are:
- Official EC list of polling stations and voters per polling station
- Photos of the signed election tally sheets from each polling station. To ensure that the photos are not tampered with and provide an audit trail:
- Each photograph has to be taken with information on the camera, the GPS coordinates of where the photo was taken, date and time when the photo was taken which is available in many cameras that share it using the Exchangeable Image File Format (EXIF)
- Two separate photos of the tally sheets have to be taken by different cameras
- The cameras taking equipment may be registered beforehand to provide validation of the source of the information
- The signatures of the returning officers and stamp must be clear and visible in the photo
The architecture for the technology solution is as follows:
- Web based solution accessible via any browser. Due to poor Internet connectivity in many areas of the country, an Android app would be provided to assist in data collection, then data sent once the user gets into an area with Internet.
- The field officers who capture the photos would also be provided with an option of entering the candidate vote tallies.
- In the tallying center, candidate vote tallies are entered from the photos received and vote tallies entered by data clerks. In order to reduce errors the following approach would be used:
- The clerks are randomly assigned photos as they come in
- The tally for a station must be entered correctly by two separate data entry clerks, then approved by a supervisor. This process is formally called the two-pass verification method or double data entry.
- All correctly entered data is shared with the rest of the world for download and analysis.
This system is mission-critical having to be available for the entire vote counting period of 48 hours, so the architecture includes the following paths for data collection:
- Multiple access IP addresses and domains for the website in case some are blocked off
- Any data collected via the Android app can be sent via email to a dedicated tallying center address. To ensure that only data from the app is received and not changed in transit, encryption is used.
The inspiration came from a quote by Ghandi “Be the change you wish to see in the world”, disproving the myth that there is no local capability to design and implement such solutions and most of all that such solutions have to be complex.
Looking forward to hearing your thoughts and suggestions…
Syzygy is a Uganda focused utility calculator (launched by this post https://ssmusoke.com/2015/08/11/launching-syzygy-uganda-focused-utility-calculator/), this new release adds a tool not available anywhere else allowing you to estimate the costs of a mobile money transaction. Are you sending to a registered number, unregistered or trying to withdraw from an agent or ATM?
Hope this app saves you the hassle of searching for the transaction chart which is usually hanging in the agent’s booth.
Do let us know what you think of the new release.
The link to the app is http://bit.ly/syzygy-ug
A screenshot of the new calculator is below
Mobile Money Cost Estimator
This blog post provides an alternate design and approach for an online sim-card registration tool, thanks to the team at Styx Technology Group
for putting the design and mockups for the alternate solution.
The principles of the system design are as follows:
- A user can register more than one sim-card under their own names only after completing their profile information, which cannot be changed later (for audibility)
- A user can return and check their registration information later
- MTN staff can respond to a registration pointing out any missing or inaccurate information
- The user can be notified by SMS and/or email of the status of their registration, and can also login to check the status
- The registrations can also be downloaded and added to MTN systems (as may be required)
- For identification, two documents have to be provided to confirm, and because the numbers are entered, it is easy for MTN staff to verify
The mockups below tell the story of how an alternate process looks like licensed under the Creative Commons 3
UPDATE – November 19, 2015: Looks like MTN updated the sim card registration process to an online form at https://www.mtnbusiness.co.ug/mtnreg/ in response to this post
My colleagues at Styx Technology Group are looking at alternate approaches to telecos in Uganda to increase their ARPU (Average Revenue Per Unit) a metric for revenue from each customer, instead of the current price war tagged to 3/= per second (US$ 0.1 per minute).
- Accept that voice is now commodity, being pushed further out by VOIP for both regular users and business, due to the improving Internet connectivity both via fixed and mobile connections. There is no longer a competitive edge to having cheaper voice, the revenues are fixed and can only go lower
- Bundled services: Currently there are separate plans for voice, SMS and data, which have to be purchased daily or when needed. The monthly plans have a premium attached, so without looking at the numbers I suspect that a majority of the regular users purchase daily plans as and when is needed. The telecoms can create bundled plans (already existing for voice) to include SMS and data without the hefty premium. Additional incentives can be provided for further discounts when a user pays consistently for a plan for 6 months, without any breaks.
- Smartphone Device and Service Contracts: While these are being gotten rid of in the US and Europe, the market in Uganda is ripe for disruption, where smartphones are paid over 12 to 24 months, with bundled services. Obviously the argument here is the risk associated with lending in Uganda, but options include partnering with financial institutions can help reduce the risk profile, work through employers to deduct the costs of the contract directly at source.
- Multiple Smartphone Data Plans: This is similar to the device plans above, however this allows the owner of the plan to register additional devices for monthly fee to share the data. This has been common with unlimited plans, and would provide a new revenue stream.
- Extending Mobile Money Services: The best service to copy is PayWay with a wide range of devices, and platforms on which to use the service based on what infrastructure the agent has. I would like to be able to swipe my VISA card and transfer money to my account without having to go through the bank interface which tends to be down more often than not.
- Bulk Sales of Devices to Schools: The new underlapped customer base, sell more devices to schools get parents to pay part of the costs to push e-education services, why do kids still have to fill Advanced Level and University Level choices on paper forms that can be lost? With powerful tablets in the $50 to $100 range only the telecoms have the clout, network and drive to push this through.
- Custom Devices and Services: These are for data collection needs, surveys etc, which can be accessed through third parties but pushing the envelope on what is possible. The key here is flexibility of service, enabling channel partners build and innovate by creating custom services and plans to meet their specific needs.
The telecoms need to think of blue ocean strategies to create new markets, provide ability for others to leverage their platform investments for new revenue channels, leveraging the example of Amazon that has created a multi-billion dollar technology infrastructure business based on solving internal problems.
A very welcome addition to Uganda technology scene are the multiple consumer facing apps, from banks, to telecommunication companies to support mobile money services, to parastatals getting closer to their customers. The newest apps that I am aware of include (in no particular order):
- Airtel Money
- My MTN
- NWSC Mobile
- NSSF Go
- Stanbic Bank Mobile Banking
- DFCU Mobile Banking
- Bank of Africa Mobile Wallet (BMW)
- Ask URA
On one hand, this is a very welcome addition to address the increasing sophistication of the Ugandan urban consumer who demands more from the corporations. However a worrying trend which needs to be addressed is the security of these applications, in collecting and managing user information. I have taken to social media to ask for more information on the security setup for these apps, but have never gotten a response.
This is hoping to the regulators, Bank of Uganda, Uganda Communications Commission and NITAU (at the moment) to provide a united front to ensure that the following areas are addressed:
- Excess permissions, one app wanted to access my contacts, SMS messages, WIFI, phone identity yet was not a banking app
- Encryption of data stored on the phone to ensure that if the phone is separated from the owner the data is safe
- Secure connections for communication with external servers – via HTTPS and SSL
- Security audits of back end infrastructure following ISO and COBIT standards (http://www.isaca.org/Journal/archives/2002/Volume-6/Pages/A-Survey-of-Application-Security-in-Current-International-Standards.aspx)
- Penetration, stress and load testing to ensure that aside from
- Software development practices that include OWASP top 10 Proactive Controls for software developers https://www.owasp.org/index.php/OWASP_Proactive_Controls
What else do you see being done to improve the security of our consumer facing applications
I would not consider myself an early adopter, neither am I a laggard, but somewhere in the middle for software upgrades. So when I heard that my Samsung Galaxy S4 would be getting Android Lollipop in December 2014, I was over the moon. What made me envious was that my colleagues with LG, Nexus and Sony devices were getting this update over the holidays.
So patiently I waited stalking the net for news on when my S4 would get an OTA update but no avail, 4 months later I am still feeling left out till, I found this post S4 Stock Lollipop came up in my Google+ feed (yes I use that) which led me to look for options of manually updating my phone to an official stock android for Samsung phones.
This led me to a guide How to get Android 5.0.1 Lollipop on the Galaxy S4 which walked me through the process.
75 minutes later, I had Lollipop 5.0.1 installed on my S4, now to understand how the new notifications & other enhancements can be leveraged for my day to day use most especially the battery life improvements.
My biggest worry was bricking the phone, so I followed the instructions to the letter, and ensured the laptop running Odin was on UPS just in case of power outage.