Technologies that need fixing

Why is technology so broken in Uganda? It seems to follow Murphy ’s Law, everything that can go wrong will go wrong. And sometimes, many times in a week.

On day one, I decided to jump on the bandwagon and send mobile money which was urgently required to complete a business transaction. Alas, “The network is down”, the vendor informed me in a tone that indicated this was normal.

Since I had always been a sceptic of this particular service, (further perpetuated by numerous newsworthy scandals) it validated my suspicions. From a business perspective shouldn’t something that makes you trillions of shillings be up 24-7 at any cost? On day two I made the leap and discarded the overworked Ideos I had been painfully using for a couple of years with a supposedly worthy smart replacement that came nicely jacketed in leather. All seemed to work well until I tried to load airtime and one particular number on the screen did not work.

After a bit of tinkering, I discovered that the number only worked when the phone was not being charged. What an oddity- I had to laugh. So we can’t even trust the most trusted phone vendors? Or the standards body to ensure we get genuine gadgets?

On day three a client waited anxiously (I like to believe that they were twiddling their thumbs) for a document that we had developed and surprise-the modem spewed out its standard ‘connecting’ interface for an hour until I was forced to spend money to send it to the technical office (which happens to be in only one location on the other side of town) to troubleshoot it. It was returned “working” and the client fuming. Every business on the average day will have internet downtime. Even after 14 years, no single Internet Service Provider has figured out how to keep the internet on all the time, albeit pirates, broken cables, upgrades, rain and other excuses we are often fed?

On day four, I logged on to an online service which supposedly was backed by billions worth of IT construction and thousands of man hours in training only to find that the forms were down and the only working number (the toll free one was ignored by all hearers) was answered by a lady who did not know why the online site form was not available. The following day I attempted to honour my remittances to this same entity only to be informed that the network was down. Every month this network has down time. If researchers are looking for a simple reason for shortfalls in collections- they don’t need to look far. You can’t collect, if taxpayers can’t file.

There are so many processes that should be easy to accomplish with technology without the tedious paper work, the absenteeism due to supernormal lunch hours, and the rude service.

Renewing a driving permit, renewing a passport, getting a national ID, and getting an ATM card are obtainable within a few days, in countries that are actually making an effort to use technology efficiently and effectively-some are actually our neighbours, so forget the digital divide talk.

If we daily have to pray silently that our technology works so we can get on with business and our lives, then there will be no end to corruption as the human mind will always ingeniously find another way.

The author is the Managing Editor Enterprise Technology, and Director, The Knowledge Management


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