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What’s wrong with AIP system?

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From the government’s pitch, Affordable Input Program app is an amazing piece of code. It is magic as it has powerful yet simple verification methodology; using a smartphone, the agricultural input subsidy provider swipes a recipient’s National ID card and behold, the app goes ahead to check suitability of the subsistence farmer on the server.

This is a boundless improvement from the brick and mortar printed coupon system. What we have here is actually an electronic coupon on server that is verifiable via the telephone network system.

As whimsical as that may sound, the system is currently fraught with a myriad of problems. The first problem is that different government officials seem to be saying different things as to the cause of the glitches. If you asked the operators on the ground, they cite network connectivity issues.

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According to Gospel Kadzako, the government’s spin doctor, the problem is software (operating system) on some of the phones being old and too slow to run the app.

There are times when the system indicates that a recipient has already accessed the input subsidy only to indicate the opposite the next day.

I agree with the agents that we have network connectivity issues here. I disagree with the information mister; is not a software issue. It is a hardware problem. Those phones are slow because they either have 3G network modems or that they are 4G-able yet have 3G SIM cards.

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While the last issue camouflages as a database anomaly; a software problem on the server, it is actually a network problem. The server assigns maximum amount of time it expects a command to be executed. If this does not happen, the process is timed-out.

In this particular case, there is time that is allotted for the app to verify a recipient after which the process is timed-out. At that point the server may ‘incorrectly’ indicate that the recipient has already accessed the input subsidy. After the server does its recoveries, it will notice that this was actually an incomplete transaction and reverse it. Because the server does not do this immediately, this may take until the next day to be corrected.

The other issue we seem to have here is bandwidth. What is that in English? This is how much traffic the system can take before getting congested? This issue involves the contract the government has with the network provider whether TNM or Airtel.

So, what shall we say about these things? First things first, what we have here are network problems. Should we have these problems at this point? The answer is a big no.

Before any system is rolled out, there must be a dry run. At this point, the resilience of a system is tested. It is at that point where all these issues should have surface and solutions sought. You do not rehearse your speech during the delivery. Or do you?

This is not a political problem it is an engineering design and implementation issue. Perhaps, some network engineers were in a hurry to please politicians and threw caution to the wind.

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