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When machines run errands

“Although our digital machines have escaped their narrow confines and started to demonstrate broad abilities in pattern recognition, complex communication and other domains that used to be exclusively human; they’re still in the infancy”. The Second Machine Age, Eric Brynjolfsson Mcaffee.

No matter how fast they may be, computers cannot surpass human beings in certain areas. In short, your brain still remains the greatest computer ever made.

This showed up when I started sending Mo 626, Airtel Money and TNM Mpamba on an errands to purchase Escom prepaid units. Don’t ask me why I needed electricity credit in the midst of intermittent power outages.

NBM’s Mo626 showed resilience and willingness to work at odd hours. There was one time, however, when the system misbehaved.

It completed the transaction and went ahead to debit my bank account but did not deliver the units via SMS service. I figured it out; fired up and behold, the prepaid electricity token was sitting there waiting for me to pick it up.

The thing about prepaid electricity is that sometimes you can forget to check things up and in the middle of coding a story at 2 am, you suddenly find yourself in the dark while the neighbour’s security lights are still oozing light waves.

That did happen. This time around I used Airtel Money. The system reported that I had initiated a transaction to purchase K 5, 000 electricity units and debited my account. No token was delivered.

I logged on to the Escom website; there was nothing for me. Blood raced through my veins; that was all the money I had. The system reversed the transaction the following morning and credited my account.

I wanted to be prudent; I checked the Escom customer system interface for the split meter. The gadget had no good news to report; electricity units were about to run out. This was the turn for TNM Mpamba. I was broke so K1, 000 worth of electricity would do.

I went through the no-so-straightforward method of purchasing electricity units on my TNM phone. The phone just went silent and no token was delivered. The Escom website had no surprises either. Soon the available units would run out and that would cut out power. Threatened by the impending, I went for an alternative and bought the electricity units on NBM’s Mo 626.

The following morning I passed-by TNM customer care centre. A gorgeous lady, almost an image of lust showed up to help. I explained my ordeal; she listened patiently and disappeared through the door she had busted from. Soon she emerged and handed me a piece of paper with a token.

When I went home, Escom system blatantly informed me that the token had already been used. When I checked on the website, I found out that the token the good-looking lady had given me was in fact the one I had bought via NBM, Mo 626. I did not go back there; I did not want to market my poverty to the dazzling damsel.

After all, that would have defeated the purpose; by the time I got a refund, I would have spent more than K 1,000, so why bother?

Three days later; TNM’s Mpamba refunded the money on its own. Computers are what they are, they will do what they are instructed to do; this is called garbage in, garbage out.

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