Saturday, April 18, 2015

M-PESA's Homecoming


This weekend, Safaricom is moving their servers, which were in Germany, to Kenya. They've been harping this on their social channels as #mpesacomeshome. From their press release:
Early last year, we announced plans to migrate the M-PESA platform to Kenya. We can now confirm that faster transactions, improved stability and added functionality on M-PESA is a dream coming to life: M-PESA is coming home!
Here is what you will enjoy from the new M-PESA system:
  • Enhanced system stability due to reduced points of failure
  • Ability to enjoy more products and services on the platform
  • Faster resolution of system outages due to local support
  • Higher transaction processing capability
  • Easier integration into M-PESA for third parties
  • Leverages global best practice in technology security, business continuity and redundancy
  • Instant monitoring of systems
  • Enhanced stability translates to reduced downtimes for subscribers
We are on track to bring the system home by this weekend...
I don't know how this benefits anyone other than Safaricom. They claim that it will increase transaction times but I think it'll just be shaving a couple of milliseconds of the time. There's not been a complaint on that front as far as I know.

There has been a quiet hope amongst developers that this may lead to the much fabled M-PESA API allowing simpler  monetisation of apps built for the local market but Safaricom has been playing coy with timelines so I'm not holding my breath on that.

Speaking of monetisation using mobile money, there's one cool solution, a work around really, called chowder. More on that in a future post. Peace!!!

Monday, April 13, 2015

Universal Service Fund

The Universal Service Fund, created by The Kenya Information Communications Amendment Act 2009 (KICA 2009) and the Kenya Information and Communications Regulations 2010 (KICR US&A 2010), was to create a fund that would compliment the commercial roll-out of communications infrastructure.

The objectives of the Universal Service Fund as provided in the Kenya Information and Communications Regulations 2010, Universal Access and Service include:
  1. Promote communications infrastructure and services rollout in rural, remote and under-served areas 
  2. Ensure availability of communication services to Persons with Disabilities, women and other vulnerable groups.
  3. Support the development of capacity building in ICTs and technological
    innovation
  4. Support expansion of communication services to schools, health facilities
    and other organizations serving public needs and
  5. Facilitate development of and access to a wide range of local and relevant
    content.
The Universal Service Fund is primarily financed by mandatory contributions from licensed operators which provide services in the various communications market segments, with provisions for complementary financing from other sources.
The fund now has apparently has 3.4 billion shillings contributed to it by telecommunications firms and now those firms want the fund audited and represention on the  Universal Service Advisory Council, which manages the fund. From the Nation:
The money has, however, not been put to use and some of the contentious issues they had raised with CA are yet to be addressed.
“We have not yet been updated on the issue of having private auditors for this fund including the status of a new access gap study,” Tespok Chief Executive Officer Fiona Asonga said in a statement to the Nation yesterday.
I think it's fair that they want to audits on the fund, something that their own framework says should happen. From section 3.2 and 3.3:
The Commission shall ensure that utilization of the Fund is transparent to the public, and subject to independent audit.
The Commission shall have custody of the account books, cheque books, securities, investment instruments and other documents and papers pertaining to the Fund and the Fund Account. The books of accounts of the Fund shall be always open for inspection by the members of the Universal Service Advisory Council and the Licensees.
The Licensees here are the telecommunications firms mentioned in the article. The Communications Authourity should give them access to all the books and accounts so they can audit them. As for the representation on the USAC, I would suggest the CA gives them two seats on the board, which currently consists of a mix of technologist and non technical people which I think is a good balance. Peace!!