Posts Tagged ‘business intelligence’

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
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Mobile Money – The Next Frontier Ubiquity

Mobile money is on an exponential growth curve in Africa, due to the growth in mobile phone penetration of GSM SIM based phone networks, and is considered the next frontier in financial inclusion for the unbanked, and easing the costs of transactions on the continent. The primary success of M-Pesa by Safaricom in Kenya is driving adoption, but now that the teething challenges are being understood and models for dealing with them are becoming more prevelant, maturity challenges are now becoming more prominent and are causing many to wonder whether the promise is being achieved.

Starting primarily as a money transfer solution by telecoms it has proven to be a lucrative alternate revenue stream for the telcos who are being pressed due to increased competition in voice (now a commodity), lower charges in international calls from Voice over IP (VOIP) alternatives, higher capital costs for infrastructure to support a burst in mobile data growth, and lower phone usage due to social networks like Facebook/Twitter/Google+.

The next step is to grow into a mobile commerce payment solution, for merchants, organizations and businesses in order to compete against established players like banks and other financial institutions, debit and credit cards, online payment systems like Paypal/CheckOut/Google Wallet, NFC based mobile payments. Overcoming this frontier means delivering a more streamlined user experience to the consumer which is key to adoption.

Below are 10 features and approaches that I think mobile payment solution providers need to do in order to become relevant in the mobile payment space:

1. Merchant originated payment requests – current mobile money systems are setup so that the payee sends money to another number, which leads to errors if the entered number is incorrect (which is a major customer headache). Having merchant originated payment requests, almost like the withdrawal requests from agents, can reduce the errors in the transfer since the customer only has to approve the transaction.

2. Delayed payment outside the current session – the money transfer can only be completed in a single session, however if the payment request can be made and stored on the customer’s phone (like an invoice), and the payment made at a later date can provide an efficient invoicing/payment for coommunity delivered services like utilities, education, etc

3. Payment request forwarding – allow the payment request to be forwarded to and fulfilled by another number

4. Telco Number Independence – where number portability is not available, the ability to use mobile numbers from competing telcos, which means one service can grow out and reach all customers

5. Transaction Payment plans – other than per transaction, allows a larger volume of transactions to be done at a lower cost

6. Easy creation of merchant accounts to increase the ubiquity of usage

7. 3rd Party system integration points – since a lot of the mobile money systems are tightly integrated with telecom systems this raises the costs and slows the pace of integration with other businesses like banks

8. API for system integration – providing APIs through which 3rd party providers can integrate with the mobile money systems via the web and Internet to support online transactions

9. Standards – there is no standard for the mobile money services therefore any integrator needs to interface differently to each system. These standards can extend to using contacts in mobile phones

10. Support for alternate delivery channels such as mobile phone, web and desktop apps to increase ubiquity

What are your thoughts?

Startup Weekend Day 3 – 60 sec pitch, Customer Validation, Business Value, Wrap Up and Lessons Learnt

Day 3 of the weekend was entirely focused on validating the target customers, revenue numbers, business models and completing the proof of concepts for the pitches to the judges at the end of the day.

How did the morning begin, well we found out that we did not have to develop a platform as there was one tried and tested platform, so it would make it easier for the team to develop a proof of concept. This also opened up an alternate revenue stream for implementation and hosting which was really great as that was one big business risk.

We also had a great discussion with one of the mentors, Sean Krepp of Grameen Foundation, who is currently involved in a lot of data collection and monitoring, on the business models, value propositions, risks and how to laser focus on a customer problem.

Dry Run for Final Pitch

Dry Run for Final Pitch

The strange thing about Day 3 – Sunday was that the energy levles were ebbing towards empty as the timelines etched towars the finish line. The first checkpoint was at 12 noon where we had to present the first draft of the final pitch presentation to the mentors who were around as a “dry run”. Thank God for the mentors because they were relentless in their pursit of information, updates, validation of customers, revenue models and business justification.

The afternoon was slow as we got all ready for the presentations with finalizing the documentation for the presentation. We emptied the rooms and organized the ares for the last pitch. Well finally the judges arrived, and it was with great fanfare that the final pitches began, and of course Databud was the first off the tracks, and we had a great time “first presenters” always do.

The Guest of Honor, Hon. Ham Mulira, arrived during the pitches, and from my vantage point seemed to enjoy the energy and vitality that was going on. He seemed to be going back in time to when he was younger I think, coding in C on those UNIX machines.

Databud Final Pitch to Judges

Databud Final Pitch to Judges

Well after the speeches, the judges went to to deliberate and we had a few words from the Guest of Honor. Just as Hon. Ham Mulira was getting up, one of our mentors, Reinier Battenberg, did a Kanye West, and asked the attendees in the room to give the lead organizer, Richard Zulu, a round of applause for organizing such an event and being such a community leader.

Hon. Ham Mulira was eloquent, in touch with the times and gave a great rendition of his days, but his take away quote as “You do not have to be great to be start, but you have to start to be great”. After he introduced two of his guests, great manners for a big man.

Once the speeches were done it was time to wait for the judges to come back and announce the top three apps of the evening which were Sonda, MyZiki and BetOM.

While we may not have won we had a great time, for me it was a great learning experience and a once-in-a-lifetime event. Of course now I will be attending hackathlons and similar events whenever I can get a chance to improve and further develop my skills.

Final Pitch to Judges - Front View

Final Pitch to Judges – Front View

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

UPDATE:

Follow the experiences from the first two days at:

  1. Startup Weekend Kampala – Day 1 – Ideas, Pitches, Teams
  2. Startup Weekend Day 2 – Platform, Mentors, Coding, Product Positioning, Decisions during Execution

 

Startup Weekend Day 2 – Platform, Mentors, Coding, Product Positioning, Decisions during Execution

Day 2 started well, but what I can say is that it was a rollercoaster of a day I must say with ups and downs but well here it is. The day started early as there was a lot of energy from the night before, I got to the venue by 8:00am checked in and setup my laptop as I waited for my team mates to arrive.

The plan of the day was to develop a navigable prototype as a proof of concept that this is possible. Once I had a cup of caffeine, oh yes so much of this stuff is needed for such events that a dedicated coffee maker is inevitable … it was off to meet the mentors who were moving around and talking to the different teams.

The first mentors, Reinier Battenberg and Deborah Elzie, offered the first blow of the day, we were not the only players in the market and a new player had just launched 3 weeks prior to the startup weekend and they had lotsa datasets. This was the first crushing blow to our flight in the clouds, however on talking with other mentors the advice we got was “differentiate yourselves from the competition” – now this is the beauty of having mentors around because they help you navigate the valleys as you find them.

Well back to work we went, as we prepared for the 12noon checkpoint with renewed energy. The focus of the 12noon checkpoint was to practice the 60 second pitch, and sent targets for the 4pm checkpoint. This checkpoint provides a valuable status check from the “code product” to focus on the business model, value proposition, revenue and cost projections, etc … basically the business side of the apps.

Well it was back to work code, revenue models, more research on how to differentiate ourselves from the competition. Between noon and 4pm, all I can say is the rooms were intense with coding, thinking planning, etc.

In summary Day 2 was execute on the run, re-think and refine while on the run. What an experience … we worked long and hard into the night getting ready for the final sprint towards the finish line …

UPDATE:

Follow the action for Day 1 and Day 3 at:

  1. Startup Weekend Kampala – Day 1 – Ideas, Pitches, Teams
  2. Startup Weekend Day 3 – 60 sec pitch, Customer Validation, Business Value, Wrap Up and Lessons Learnt
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