As the world continues to shape and shift to accommodate the capricious changes in the info-tech world, it seems so are our own local business, communities and now educational institutions.
Makerere University Faculty of Computing and IT [CIT] partnered with the new-to-Uganda Nigerian-owned United Bank of Africa [UBA] on a pilot project for a mobile banking model the bank is in the stages of rolling out. The bank willl give out 120 phone sim cards to the students participating in the pilot.
Joseph Arinaitwe, the head of E-Banking at UBA Uganda said "We think students are an integral part of the economy. Their creativity, time and the fact that they have money makes them an important part of it. We are stress testing this in order to advance the move towards a cashless economy."
The pilot is meant to stress-test (a phrase used to mean to test the strength, reliability and ability to withstand heavy traffic) the system. The pilot is a joint collaboration between UBA and Warid Telecom Uganda. Now in direct competition with MTN's Mobile Money, the project seems to be an effort to fast track the Ugandan market seemingly in preparation for the Seacom subterranean fibre optic cable's advent anticipated in June this year.All telecom service providers will be aiming to provide the latest, up-to-date services where all services for customers will be on their mobie phones.
The bank's plan is to have all the other phone networks eventually carry the service as part of their profiles, and as a service.
The project, which involves transfer of virtual funds from one phone to another, is hosted by a secure server process and is approved by the Central Bank of Uganda.
The faculty's Head of Corporate Relations Mr. Michael Niyitegeka was on hand to give introductory remarks and explain the need for students in their move towards advancement to embrace new technologies that would eventually ease daily life and their business transactions.
"Eventually we would like you to be able to do everything like pay for food, restaurants, groceries, clothes, school fees and dues with this virtual money", Mr. Arinaitwe added.
Now in all fairness, I don't mean to be bitter, or sadistic, but how do we expect this to work in a country where there is no guaranteed power supply, a corrupt central exchequer, and with a significant section living under poverty the line?
I can see the appeal that Orange Telecom saw in Uganda [a country with over half its population below the age of 15! are you kidding?! Just give it 5-10 years as these tots all grow into adults and teenagers and not all of them can live in towns or have formal jobs] but for the love of me I cant visualize why anyone would want Mobile banking available to the drunkest nation on earth!!
Innovation will be the key term of the day and who better to set the trend than the University students of today who are the future citizens and taxpayers of tomorrow. The same way they revolutiuonalized the consumption of mineral water in Uganda, but that's a story for another day.
Till then, Go Uganda!