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Our isolated computer systems

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As a country, we have surely made a lot of progress in computerisation. This is very evident in such areas as electronic money.

I still remember those days when bank tellers were not using computers; they would refer cheque withdraws to banking hall supervisors behind their desks.

I don’t need the bank teller now; I can log into my account myself and transact. I do not even need an auto teller card; most ATMs are cardless.

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The reason why it is this seamless is that my smartphone platform and the bank’s computer system are in harmony. There are not isolated.

Using software tools like application protocol interface (api), different software platforms can speak to each other.

It is for the very reason that you can log to your National Bank account while on Facebook or interact with your FDH bank account using WhatsApp.

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It is not so with many of the Malawi Government software platforms. Take for example the Road Traffic department and Malawi Police Traffic Department. Are they linked? If they were, drivers would not be required to carry their driving licenses all the time. Using a smartphone, the traffic policeman would be able to pull that document from the Road Traffic server.

If a driver committed an offence and an on-spot fine was required, the driver would be allowed to pay using plastic money like TNM Mpamba, Airtel Money or indeed Mo626, FDH 525, NBS Easy Money or the many others in our midst.

Would that not be wonderful? Issues of corruption would be reduced because there would be no need for cash to change hands. After all, the system could allow the offender to pay within a specific time period.

Recently, the Ministry of Education removed thousands of teachers from the government payroll because they allegedly did not present their National IDs when asked to.

The National Registration Bureau has a wonderful computer system that holds a database of all the National IDs. All I am saying is that this database is not a manual system.

The government payroll system is not a manual, either. It is another database of salaries for government employees. Using computer tools, these systems can be linked. When that is done, there is no need for government employees to physically present National IDs to the ministry for validation processes; computers systems can do that on their own.

Whenever I buy electricity units on Mo626, the bank system verifies my meter number with Escom’s server before completing the transaction. This means that three systems are able to talk; my phone software, the banks system and Escom’s billing platform.

In order to achieve this platform harmony, there is need to plan. A few questions must be asked before procuring new systems for government.

Chief among which must be the issue of compatibility with other present government systems. Otherwise isolated systems are manual.

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