Archive for the ‘mobile technology usage’ Category

A Frugal Innovation Approach to Simcard Verification 2019 Edition – Design & High-level Architecture

Happy Easter Monday to you all, and I hope that the rains on Sunday night completed the cleansing process from the festivities, the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ and from the feast of the Goddess Ester (depending on which side you lean)… I am one who embraces all religious doctrines an faiths.

So over the last few days I have started receiving a message from MTN Uganda, to physcially visit a service center to verify my sim card registration, well this is only the 3rd cycle for selected customers whose details were screwed up during cycle 2, and I guess I am one of the lucky few with time to waste.

This is a followup to the 2013 recommendations for Simcard Registration https://ssmusoke.com/2013/03/12/uganda-simcard-registration-alternate-approach/¬†which apparently were not providing sufficient value ūüėČ

Anyway after having to make 10 calls this morning, the reminder message, a hardcoded IVR message, has left me frustrated, but also wondering, why do I have to physically visit the service center, it is 2019!

Rather than complain all the time, I focused my anger with support from my trusted colleagues at Styx Technology Group (http://styxte.ch) we got to protoyping a quick and dirty solution to this mess. What MTN and the regulator need are my National ID details, since they will scan the ID or take a photo of it, take a photo of me then I will have to wait 2-3 days,

A frugal innovation can be:

  1. Mobile App front end to capture data that is needed
  2. A backend system – doesn’t matter what it is – can even reuse the exisiting simcard registration database they have with processes to complete the verification flow, and link into the audit process that triggered this verification
  3. A verification process, which can be done by the app automatically, or using a backup USSD channel. This follows 2FA (two factor authentication to prevent mis-use)
  4. A notification that the verificatio process has been completed and *197# can be leveraged to check status.

This method is not for everyone, but provides a solution for those of us who may not be able to line up and waste 2-3 hours in line to do just this…

Some mobile screenshots from the design team

 

NIN Details

National ID Details

Phone Numbers

Phone Numbers

Confirmation

Confirmation

Thoughts and additions are welcome!!!

UPDATE 1:¬†One of the team members asked me, so does this solve your problem? How do you know which numbers are listed on your NIN that has been provided? Leading to iteration 2 of the Phone Numbers screen allowing the display of existing numbers with functionality to remove currently registered numbers…

Phone Numbers - v2

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Alternate Approach to Legal Independent Election Tallying

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:

  1. Official EC list of polling stations and voters per polling station
  2. 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:

  1. 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.
  2. The field officers who capture the photos would also be provided with an option of entering the candidate vote tallies.
  3. 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.
  4. 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:

  1.  Multiple access IP addresses and domains for the website in case some are blocked off
  2. 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 – Release 2 – Uganda Mobile Money Cost Estimator

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

Mobile Money Cost Estimator

Alternate Approach to MTN SIM Card Registration Process & Web Tool 

MTN Uganda has finally put together an application to support the online registration of simcards. However the process as outlined in the Dignited article (http://www.dignited.com/15503/you-can-now-register-your-mtn-uganda-sim-card-online-heres-how/) requires a user to download a registration form, upload it then wait until MTN staff can get back on the registration status.
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:
  1. 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)
  2. A user can return and check their registration information later
  3. MTN staff can respond to a registration pointing out any missing or inaccurate information
  4. The user can be notified by SMS and/or email of the status of their registration, and can also login to check the status
  5. The registrations can also be downloaded and added to MTN systems (as may be required)
  6. 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
Login Screen

Login Screen

Signup Screen

Signup Screen

Dashboard

Dashboard

My Profile

My Profile

Register Number

Register Number

UPDATE РNovember 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

Alternate Approach to Voice Price Wars in Telecom Industry in Uganda

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).

  1. 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
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
What do you think?

UPDATE: This blog post follows the same thinking as¬†The Telecom Wars in Uganda ‚Äď Round 5 ‚Äď 2015 and Beyond¬†on this blog too

Bringing Security to the heart of Uganda Consumer Applications 

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):
  1. Airtel Money
  2. My MTN
  3. NWSC Mobile
  4. NSSF Go
  5. Stanbic Bank Mobile Banking
  6. DFCU Mobile Banking
  7. Bank of Africa Mobile Wallet (BMW)
  8. 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:
  1. Excess permissions, one app wanted to access my contacts, SMS messages, WIFI, phone identity yet was not a banking app
  2. Encryption of data stored on the phone to ensure that if the phone is separated from the owner the data is safe
  3. Secure connections for communication with external servers – via HTTPS and SSL
  4. 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)
  5. Penetration, stress and load testing to ensure that aside from
  6. 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

GeekDIY – Manually Upgrading Samsung S4 to Stock Android Lollipop 5.0.1

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.

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