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Daily Nation : January 27th 2014
4 TECHNOLOGY Cashless ‘matatu’ good idea but system needs rethinking BY KAHENYA KAMUNYU email@example.com W hen it comes to creativity in technology, Kenya does truly come up with innovative ideas. The government came up with the idea to legislate and force Public Service Vehicles (PSVs) to collect fares electronically. We will get to the real intention later. In the meantime, once the tech- nology is put to large scale use, conductors will no longer have to walk around with pockets full of money. PSV operators will no longer have to worry about rampant theft of their earnings. There won’t be that challenge of finding change, and in the all too familiar and rampant PSV hijacking, gangsters will no longer find it a palatable target for the day’s collections. Beyond that, the price stability in a volatile market is now nearly guaranteed, probably with peak and off-peak rates being an issue of the past and assuming that PSV staff cannot fiddle with the platform. It’s sensible, as we can then avoid the silliness of prices being hiked the minute mother nature puts unleashes her dark grey clouds upon the earth. We have inspired a successful money transfer model and platform, and being that we are Kenyan, and love hustling, money is our business. We are the role model of the Peer-to-Peer (P2P) mobile money model. It has been revolutionary, and it has achieved its primary role. Other tasks, however, seem to be a challenge. Mobile Money Model is limited Our P2P mobile money platform was designed and built for that specific singular task. Moving money between two people. It was built during a volatile dark time in our history, and for its primary role, it has worked very well. In reality, it struggles in serving the Consumer-to-Business (C2B) and Business-to-Consumer (B2C) markets, where it is being touted as the perfect fit. As a micro-payment platform, it is not. It was never built for such use. By design, it is already crippled. It is becoming common to wait a fairly long time to post a transaction. Waiting up to 45 minutes during peak times is not unheard of. No surprises there, since it was not designed to handle that many transactions simultaneously, and it does not have the scaling ability for its proposed role. Better alternatives exist Micro-payment platforms using Near Field Communication (NFC) cards and devices, however, represents the kind of robust platform built for the PSV business. Suica, Oyster Card, Octopus, and many more are international NFC platforms used to post millions of transactions on a daily basis in some of the world’s busiest transport platforms, moving far more people in a far better organised environment than Nairobi. They also don’t fail as much. Why? It is because they were built from the ground up with that specific intention. They were not hived off another platform, adapted or modified. They were purposely built for this. Purpose is critical in an intelli- gent platform, as it helps determine future scaling decisions based on demand and cost. Questionable intentions Our government is clearly adamant about putting even more technology into consumers hands. That deserves applause. The reasons for them, however, may not be as saintly as might appear. This is a guaranteed source for tax revenues. For every payment made, the tax man takes their cut, daily for the rest of our lives. The government has never been able to fully extract revenue from PSVs, because, honestly, it has been guessing the actual revenues and the PSV operators have not been forthcoming about their income. This new idea guarantees that the government knows the real numbers, and it guarantees that they earn their cut hands-free. Does this means that transport prices will go up? Very likely. Secondly, all trans- actions are tracked, meaning the government can at any time determine where you are, where you have been, and where you are going to, simply by you paying bus fare. So, if the government needs to find you, it would be as easy as ask- Monday, January 11, 2010 DAILY NATION INSTITUTIONS DAILY NATION Monday January 27, 2014 COMRADE VIBE Highs and lows of a semester in campus BY MERCY NJOKI firstname.lastname@example.org It surprises me how money gives one confidence in equally small and big things. Visit any public university at the beginning of the semester and you will really love the environment. In the first month, most students are ‘loaded’ with money, courtesy of the Higher Education Loans Board (HELB). Parties are held any day of the week. Students are busy looking for movies and TV series. Classes are attended by less than half the class population. The students ‘mess’ is close to empty. The HELB money takes them to hotels frequented by the financially sound working class. The students will spoil themselves with expensive liquor and food. Good aroma fills the corridors of the hostels as beef finds it place in students’ sufuria. There is noise everywhere as drunk and sober comrades enjoy life. The male students run their girlfriends berserk with cosy and classy gifts that can cost one a fortune. They wined and dine together in posh joints, thanks to the loan. Romance clouds the air as students “in love” hold hands and kiss openly on the university pathways. Many comrades purchase hi-tech accessories FILE | DAILY NATION ing the payment provider to hand over the data. Finally, the government has to convince Kenyans that paying more than they are currently using an electronic model they don’t yet feel comfortable with is actually a good thing. And in a country where income is not increasing as fast as expenditure, it is a tough sell. It can only be enforced by legislation, hence the push. It is a brilliant plan, without a doubt, but for once, can the masterminds address all the potential pitfalls before switching to the new platform? Just this once, could we avoid making the same mistakes we made with projects like prepaid electricity? The writer is the CEO of Able Wireless Company (www.ablehq.co.ke), a media streaming service provider ENERGY How electric cars could help save electricity As the numbers of electric cars increase, they could potentially demand enormous amounts of electricity. Meeting that demand at a time when the electric systems are stretched could be expensive, particularly if it requires construction of new power plants, specially purposed for handling peak demand, that would be needed only a few hundred hours a year. But electric cars could be part of the solution instead of part of the problem, according to researchers at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. In fact, if electric vehicles arrive in big numbers, they could be coming at just the right time for the electric power system, the researchers say. The reason is that the grid is increasingly supplied by intermittent sources of energy, especially wind, and battery charging could be a form of demand that the grid operators could schedule. In a paper recently published in the academic journal, Applied Energy, the authors argue that if vehicle charging can be scheduled at the power system’s convenience, the cost of providing service can be cut in half. Let the driver decide when to recharge, and if the only available capacity is from an expensive plant, the power system will use that, said one of the authors, Jeremy Michalek, an associate professor of mechanical engineering and director of the university’s Vehicle Electrification Group. But let the system decide when to charge the batteries, and “Instead of having to ramp up an expensive plant now, you can delay the charge and ramp up a cheaper plant later, when it would otherwise not be used,” he said. Some electric car advocates have talked about using electric cars to absorb power from the grid and give it back when needed - a process known as Vehicle to Grid, or V2G. But buying electricity at off-peak prices and reselling at on-peak prices is worth a couple of hundred dollars a year per electric car participating, Michalek said, adding that wear and tear on the battery probably costs more than that. Other researchers have argued that electric cars could earn money by interacting with the grid short term, in intervals of a few seconds. Grid operators need energy storage systems that can quickly absorb power or insert it back into the system to keep the alternating current at a strict level. (NYT) to show around to others. Some of us become victims of circumstances when our roommates decide to entertain their boyfriends in the night in our shared ‘cube’. We don’t get notice on time, but we have to somehow sort ourselves out on where to sleep. When the days are very bad, sleeping out in the cold is not ruled out. The library. At this time, only few students dare to use it. The books and other academic materials gather dust. Comrades use the campus computers only access social sites for hours on end; not academic sites Very quickly though, the second month of the semester sets in. The environment drastically changes. There’s no more partying, no missing lectures, no drinking, no kissing, nothing! The university chapel is well attended on Sundays. Students attend all classes to catch up with as- signments and CATs. If anything, parties and watching movies get reserved for weekends only, and not every weekend. In this second month, the butchers around campus experience harsh economic times. The mama mboga, on the other hand, begins to get more customers. If a comrade has got nothing to cook, they walk aimlessly and buy time so that they may find their room mates asleep to save faces and shame. The noises in the hostels reduce and the aroma fades. More students seek solace at the library. This is the time when one remembers every coin they had lent to friends. But their efforts to get their money back doesn’t yield much because their friend is in the same situation; dead broke. The lovers no longer see each other eye to eye. With lack of time and empty stomach and pocket, who needs company anyway? As the third month is ushered in, things are not good at all. Desperation sets in, replacing the confidence of the first month. Being broke has a way of making students walk with their heads down. Comrades start to broker deals among themselves, and also with their lecturers in an effort to avoid a supplementary or the infamous academic “rerun”. As some female students entertain chosen lecturers in a warm night for an A, male students dig deeper into their already empty pockets for the same A. For those students who only know of one way of passing exams, they gather all the notes and handouts and spend hours on end in discussion groups and the library. Finally, the love of the first month is transferred from the opposite sex to books and lecture halls. Updates on social media reduce to bare minimum. Funny thing, it will happen again next semester.
January 26th 2014
January 28th 2014