Showing posts with label technology. Show all posts
Showing posts with label technology. Show all posts

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Whatsapp group: A User's take

Screen, when I re-installed the app in Feb 2014
When Whatsapp came onto the tech scene, a lot of folks were glad they could 'swerve' SMS costs with respect to sending multiple messages to their contacts.
Believe it or not, a number of users (still) do not know that Whatsapp uses the Internet.
They've not 'swerved' costs after all. Hehe
Sending of information, however, has not been this convenient, prompt; effective -- and in real time.

The whatsapp group feature
This is the latest craze in Whatsapp usage, with users forming groups (of up to 50 members -- updated to 256 members since 4th Feb, 2016) based on common interests and relations.
In as much as this feature makes the sharing of info among peers fast and efficient, it can be annoying sometimes (or almost always) when some regulations are not laid down.
One very effective use of the Whatsapp group feature is the one, Ashesi University lecturer, Kobby Graham had with his class. A very good use case.
Yes, we are entitled to freedom of speech and expression, but some people go way overboard with the sharing of 'irrelevant' content.
Some of tips for effectively being part of a Whatsapp group:

  1. Do share messages that are relevant to the group's objectives. If the group is just for friends having fun, well, then I guess your chargers should always be close by.
  2. Reading long messages on Whatsapp can be daunting. Do limit your messages to a maximum of ten (10) lines.
  3. As a group, decide on times to share information. This can be productive. Random postings can be distracting and annoying. Again if it is a group of friends, and you want to avoid distractions, mute your Whatsapp notifications.
  4. If it is a group where discussions on social, political, religious, or any other kind of issues are held, do MAKE sure to confirm your facts before sharing. 
  5. Do be sensitive to the feelings of others when sharing information that can be emotionally destructive. An example is the current pictures, audios, and videos on Whatsapp about the Castro incident. Just unfortunate!
  6. Do not indulge in a conversation with a group member, on the group's page. Kindly chat privately with the person, and stop disturbing other group members with your convo.
I had a chat with a very good friend of mine, Rafe. We discussed our experiences with tech gadgets and apps. It's our mini techRepublic we've been having since 2005.
An idea that he came up with is a feature in Whatsapp to allow users choose which contact they would love to get a message from. Cool, huh?

I will like to.hear your experiences with Whatsapp groups and what you think can be done to enhance the user experience.
Let me have them via the comment section. Thanks.



Thursday, March 27, 2014

VOTOmobile platform Hackathon

Photo Credit: www.votomobile.org

Earlier this week, I caught up with George, who works with VOTO Mobile, and asked him a few questions on the company's hackathon happening at iSpace tomorrow.

Here's the discourse:
Me: Who are you and what do you do? (Of course I know him, but I asked for the benefit of you, my readers)
George: I am George Arthur-Sarpong, I am a Senior Software Engineer at VOTO Mobile.

Me: How long have you worked with VOTO Mobile?
George: I have been on #teamVOTO since January 2013.

Me: What exactly does VOTO Mobile do?
George: At VOTO Mobile, we look to solving solutions to communication barriers between organizations, governments and institutions and the people they serve.
Our tools, available via the VOTO platform enables organizations to engage thousands to millions of people in decision making, feedback gathering, monitoring and evaluation, general information dissemination and    mass education through a simple phone call in the language of the receiving individual.
Our hopes are that these tools amplify the 'voices' of the under heard making them important stakeholders in decision making. It in turn directs and makes organization projects and programmes much more effective by reaching the masses through channels they can easily understand and thus achieving impact.

Me:
What is the hackathon about? What  are participants expected to get out of it?
George: Our Mobile Engagement platform for voice and SMS has been developed over the past year into a robust and global platform with excitingly new features every two weeks.
Also in line with our vision for open communication and towards Social impact, we created our API to engage firstly as in the case of this weekend's hackathon, the Ghana developer community on smart and innovative tools and apps that can be built to reach masses via voice and or SMS.
Let's call it an 'out-dooring' where it's officially open to third party app developers to do wonderful things with it.
Participants would be motivated and rewarded for their efforts at the end of the 2-day event.
They would be judged and awarded in three categories
  1. Most innovative application: The one that causes us to step back and say, "Wow – never thought of that!"
  2. Strongest execution: The most complete, most polished, ready-to-use application
  3. Strongest social impact potential: An idea that thoughtfully creates impact on a local or national issue.
So yeah there is a lot of interesting and thrilling prospects for the Hackathon happening at iSpace in Osu-Accra this weekend and of course, the entire #teamVOTO is in Accra to join our Accra developer community hack with VOTO.

Me: Why is the event being held in Accra, as VOTO Mobile is a Kumasi-based firm?
George: Yeah we are based in Kumasi operating globally, and we had and still have interactions with our local developer community in Kumasi.
We chose Accra this time to also have a feel of the developer community outside Kumasi.
So yes, it's an opportunity to interact and see what's the latest also in Accra, and meet and hack with the developers you know via mail or social media in person.

Me: Okay, sounds like a fun-packed weekend. Thanks for this opportunity. (hand shake)
George: Thanks for the time. Glad I was able to do this with you.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

How Tigo can help GhanaIANS derive more value from the Internet

www.biztechafrica.com
It is ‘almost’ (used advisedly) difficult to find an individual without a mobile phone in Ghana today – hyperbole intended. Its proliferation is tremendous. Some folks even have all the SIM cards from the six telecommunication companies in the country. Reason? Customer satisfaction not being met.
Aside the mobile phone influx, the Internet has become a ‘second home’ – and livelihood for some organisations and individuals. These are people who are always on the move, transacting one business or the other, and as such need uninterrupted – but quality – connection to the Internet, via their mobile phones and devices. This is where the telcos come in (with emphasis on Tigo).
Tigo as a telco can do more than it already is doing to get Ghanaians get more value from the Internet, than they already are. To a customer, value has to do with the benefits s/he is receives for what s/he gives up (which is generally money).
Tigo can revise their data plans in a way that allows a user’s bundle to roll over into the next bundle, once the subscription date for the previous bundle expires.  Tigo also needs to educate the public more on their Internet Portal by intensifying their advertisements. The Gift Package that is featured on this portal allows subscribers to buy data packages for friends and loved ones.
Ghanaians can derive more value from the Internet if Tigo could have an online discussion forum to augment their call center. This could also be in the form of web-based direct call back services that could catalogue subscribers’ complaints.
Tigo can also embrace crowdsourcing to generate information and opinions, just as they do with their user focus sessions, which sometimes are limited because of the number of participants. Crowdsourcing would allow a lot more folks to brainstorm on-line, using social media.
Tigo also needs to upgrade their network infrastructure to increase connectivity and accessibility. Their 3.5G modem can should be increased to 4G for high speed data transmission and reliability. More bandwidth would afford businesses that leverage on voice, video and data technologies the opportunity to serve their clients better.
Inasmuch as it is difficult for telcos to beat down their Internet cost, it would be great if Tigo did something about their Internet costs (while upholding quality).
As a number of people are embracing mobile marketing, Tigo can also help mobile advertisers understand and target customers more effectively. Tigo can help such people by offering ‘location-based’ promotions via instant messaging. Subscribers in a particular locality could get a message inviting them to partake in a promo being run by such advertisers, and win prizes.
Even though it seems a number of the older generation do not know how to use the Internet, or appreciate it, they can be taught to accept and use it. Tigo can partner with the government to design special mobile phones and websites for pensioners. This would greatly reduce the stress pensioners go through to access their money.
Tigo can also partner with the Ministry of Education and sponsor the teaching of ICT in basic schools and adult education classes.
References:

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Virus'operation: The Sermon analogy

Photo credit: Shutterstock
Imagine you are at a Church service.
The priest/pastor (i.e. user) steps up to give his homily/sermon -- he needs your (i.e. legitimate program) full attention.

A sudden cool breeze (i.e. virus) blows over you, and causes you to doze off just as the sermon begins.

You 'fall' into a trance. (i.e. Idle moment while virus executes)

The sermon ends. You snap out of your 'slumber'. (Virus terminates and allows programme ton run)

Service continues.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The 'Sin' of inaction...

Are you afraid of failure? Me too -- at least until I had a sober introspection recently. I've always been reluctant to make a move,and follow up on an idea, simply because I feel I'm not 'perfect'/well prepared yet. "When at all would you be ready?",I asked myself during my reflection. Let me share a couple of my inaction with you.

In my senior year at the university, we took a course in Entrepreneurship. One of our mini projects was to write a business plan for any business of our choosing. My teammates and I targeted the transport sector, and decided to write a business plan for the cab (taxi) business. It included online booking and other such features. We FAILED to follow up on the plan and implement it -- we felt we were not ready yet (at least i thought so). Imagine the ambivalent feeling I had when I learnt of a similar idea being implemented in Nigeria now -- TaxiPark.

Another inaction of mine was not following up on an idea to develop a web/SMS-based results (grade) notification for students in my alma mater. This idea I got while doing my national service. I was not however surprised when mFriday came out with a similar app.

I can go on and on. The point I'm trying to make is that we should try even when we are not sure of the outcome. Face our fears. Inaction is devastating -- very devastating. No wonder the Confiteor (said during the Catholic Mass), has a line that goes thus, "..., in what I have done and in what I have failed to do, ..."

Join me this Saturday at the Methodist University campus in Accra, for the mother of all Barcamps in Ghana -- Barcamp Accra. Let's pledge to make efforts and thus fail so much that failure has no other choice than to let us be.

Register for Barcamp Accra here: http://barcampaccra12.eventbrite.com/

Friday, November 16, 2012

The Vim Series!

I got a wish of mine fulfilled last Wednesday, when I partook in the Vim Series for the first time.
Vim Series is a meeting of individuals interested in technology (its challenges, prospects, application et cetera) in Ghana. It's held every Wednesday evening (6:30pm - 8:30pm) at Esoko.
I met a number of cool folks from diverse disciplines. Exchange of ideas is real fun!
Brett Nakatsu from StartupWeekend was there to share what the organisation is about and the upcoming StartupWeekend to be held in Accra this weekend. Follow #SWAccra on Twitter for updates.
Present also were guys from Open University of West Africa -- an institution taking open source education to a different dimension, by making use of MOOCs.
I enjoyed myself and felt inspired as well. If you are in Accra, and can spare 2 hours of your evening to meet cool folks and form alliances, check out the Vim Series. You will be glad you did.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Exploring the Virgin Territory of Embedded Systems

An embedded system
Photo Credit: PlantAutomation
Consider the following scenarios:
  • Your car has been stolen. How do you track its location?
  • You travel and realise you’ve left your lights on! How do you save energy – and money – by switching off the lights?

The answer to these, and many other similar ones, is embedded systems.
For more on the applications of embedded systems, click here.
Embedded systems are simply specialized computer systems that are part of larger systems or machines
The Kumasi Center for Lifelong Learning-KCLL, seeing the prospects of this industry, organised a 10-day training workshop on embedded systems at the School of Science, KNUST. This was done in partnership with First Atlantic Semiconductors & Microelectronics-FASMICRO, Nigeria's largest embedded systems company, and MFriday, a group of mobile technology enthusiasts (made up of students and industry experts).
I'm currently participating in the workshop as a ‘trainee-observer’ (on the request of the KCLL’s Executive Director, Yaw), to see how best to replicate the training on the Catholic University College of Ghana campus.
Participants have so far been introduced to the PIC microchip/microcontroller, FPGA (Field Programmable Gate Array, a special type of programmable microprocessor) and taught how to write programs in the Assembler and C languages. They've also been introduced to the USART/UART and USB communication protocol. Some of the mini projects saw participants programming a digital clock, the seven segment display of an LED, a piano, and an LCD.
The last day of the training -- tomorrow -- will be used to highlight the business aspects of embedded systems.
The trainer, Ekele, believes the field is a ‘virgin’ territory in Africa and hopes a lot more people embrace it. He says, “A lot of people are into software, but what is the software going to interact with – hardware.”
It’s been an exciting experience, and I wish a number of institutions in Ghana would set up Microelectronics Training and Development Centers (MTDCs) to train students in this field.
Please let me know what your thoughts are by commenting on this post.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Missing Link?

Communication has always been a phenomenon that beats me. How a child inherently learns to speak the tongue of people in his/her immediate environs, gestures that cut across cultures, et cetera. Still more fascinating is the ability of the deaf and dumb to communicate with their peers, and non-signers (using sign language).

Remember the programme 'Missing Link' on GTV --'twas shown on Saturdays? That was a really educative programme that got discontinued.

A lot of study has also gone into finding better ways to enhance the interaction between humans and computers -- Human Computer Interaction. Researchers are finding ways of particularly, also helping the deaf, dumb, and blind folks embrace technology.
One such development in Ghana has to do with the Ghanaian Sign Language (GhSL) Repository. The project aims to develop a website that will serve as a repository as well as an online teaching resource for GhSL; mainly aimed at non-signers. This project is being spearheaded by Diana Dayaka Osei and Dr. Astrid Twenebowa Larssen (of Ashesi University). This project would go a long way to bridge the gap 'between both worlds'. A very laudable venture by these individuals indeed.

Have you watched the evening news on GTV lately? A man does the signs when the news is read! However, I believe the signs are in English -- yes, English version. What if we had a local version (in our local tongue) while the local news is read on television? Super cool!
Surprisingly, we do have a local version of the sign language in Ghana -- the Adamorobe Sign Language!.

Technology, in the right hands, and used for the right reasons is pretty amazing. Embrace it.

Friday, April 27, 2012

So much for Data Management

Since the beginning of this year, I’ve not been able to get a printed copy of my pay slip as I usually do. The excuse: “We are now sending the pay slips through e-mails. The organization is going hi-tech.”

That sounded cool – or so I thought at the time.

So I waited patiently for my pay slip to be delivered via e-mail – NONE delivered! I decided to ask the finance department at the end of March. Surprisingly, I got a text message from the finance department informing me that payments have been made. I thought the e-mail will follow. It didn’t.
I asked a colleague at the office why still I haven’t got the mail. His answer, “Well, you will have to provide your e-mail address, so we send the pay slip to you.” You can imagine my surprise.

Me provide my e-mail address? Where did you people get my phone number from? Is it not from the same form with my details that I provided when was employed? Argh!

But you see I really don’t blame them. Most of our institutions rush into the use of technology without really doing their homework/research thoroughly and so end up being stuck at a point.

This problem wouldn’t be surfacing if our data are being managed effectively. I don’t even want to recount the number of times e-mail addresses have been collected form staff during meetings. What becomes of them?

We need to be up to the tasks we assign ourselves. Period!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

My GRE

A fortnight ago, I took the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) in Accra – daunting, but an essential experience. The GRE is a standard examination that allows individuals gain admission into graduate universities in the United States of America. It is a requirement of many grad schools. It would interest you to know that anxiety got me to the exam center almost an hour earlier than commencement time. Fortunately, the exam environment was comfortable – I felt at home – a result of my teaching in the computer lab mostly. The invigilators were also very welcoming.

As was expected, the Verbal Reasoning sections proved to be an Achilles’ heel; the Quantitative Reasoning was – well, okay. Analyzing the Issue/Argument sections were in a class of their own.

The experience made me realize that preparation indeed should not be underestimated. Juggling studying with work was no fun, but it was necessary. Luckily I had a friend who was also preparing for the exam the same time – we collaborated – not effectively, but it was worth it.

During a study session, I asked a colleague of mine to help me build up my vocabulary. I had an epiphany! He’s from a French background, and this made it easier for him to get the meanings of most of the words I threw at him. This I gathered is because most English words have French, Latin origins and therefore, basic knowledge in these languages is a plus for an individual studying for the GRE. Lesson learnt: Studying a foreign language can be a blessing – even in an English environment. Fact.

Because the exam is computer-based, typing skills are important, especially for the Analyze Issue/Argument sections. Thirty minutes can be pretty much a short time if your typing skills are poor. At a point, I found myself hitting the Ctrl + S keys to save my work – no need, because your work is saved automatically. (Laughs)

And oh, do not be deceived that 4 hours is a long time for an exam. The time will be shorter than you could possibly think of.

Let me know of your experiences as well. Do comment on this post. Thanks.

I wish prospective takers of the GRE all the best. Stay Blessed.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Use simple tools to create complex applications: think locally, impact globally

The much anticipated Google Ghana Conference took place last week, on the 19th & 20th March at the Alisa hotel in Accra – yours truly was present – as always.(smiles)

This year’s event did justice to my expectations: cool, knowledgeable presenters; relaxed atmosphere fostering partnerships and enhancing opportunities; great entrepreneurial discussions.

The first day saw Googlers giving presentations on technologies/topics such as HTML5, Google App Engine, Google+, User Experience among others. My personal highlight of the day was during the Site Clinic track where the website of techsonetGH (under construction) was ‘diagnosed’ by Luisella. It was an eye-opener into ways I could become a better webmaster. The topic for the panel discussion was, “Can Ghana have a software company with 100+ developers?” In all, participants believed it was possible but would require skills development, hard work, dedication, and of course investment.

The cultural environment of Google as alluded in the keynote address of the day was experienced personally in my interactions with Googlers present at the event. These guys are cool! (wink) Ideas indeed do come from everywhere…

Day 2 was nothing short of exciting. It was great listening to entrepreneurs and business enthusiasts discuss ideas and share experiences. One fact that stood out is that, your ideas can best be explained by you in detail, nobody cares about your idea – sharing therefore is key.
During the track on Adsense, I really got to see how Africans get a ‘third eye’ when it comes to matters involving money. Some participants really wanted to know how to track their revenue online. (still laughing)

Julia’s presentation on Google+ APIs also saw eyes rolling and heads nodding. The fact that individuals without smart phones and data enabled devices could still enjoy Google + is simply genius. The hangout feature was simply awesome as a number of participants saw it as their replacement of Skype. I also found out – as did other participants that you can actually monetize on Youtube!

I can’t end without talking about the great photographs taken by RQV Photo Studio. The dude is amazing.

In all, the event was a great success and boy did I have me some fun. I’m already looking forward to next year’s event.


Saturday, June 4, 2011

Why I code in notepad


I remember how I detested programming back in school – I still do – sometimes. It therefore seemed like a BIG irony, when my friends realized a new (hidden) passion I possessed.
Ever since I became interested in web programming, I have always loved to code in notepad (any variant). Why? I don’t know. I just do.
I personally love to design web pages/applications from scratch – you may call it ‘reinventing-the-wheel’ – which is not so cool, but fulfilling in the end. ;-)
Coding in notepad gives me total control over my code, thus affording me the comfort of debugging software at the testing stage of development.
I am not in any way downplaying the usefulness of tools such as Dreamweaver and Photoshop. These come in handy when you are running against a tight schedule – yeah yeah. Don’t forget however the need to acquaint yourself with the interfaces of such tools (which can be irking at times).
The basic notepad that comes with Windows is not so fun to work with because it lacks colour features. Other variants of notepad, however, have advanced features that make them a joy to work with – and they are FREE: notepad++, programmer's notepad, conTEXT.