Those that have studied computer networking probably have an idea about this rule: it stipulates that all critical networks and services should be available 99.999% of the time. In other words, the maximum accepted downtime should be .001% of the time. Let’s do the math. A week has 7 days. That makes it 168 hours, 10080 minutes, 604,800 seconds. The acceptable network downtime should be .001% multiplied by 604800 which gives us 6.048 seconds a week.
Many of us would agree that local networks in Africa clearly don’t follow the five 9’s availability rule. Is it because they don’t think mobile networks are critical? What about the banks whose ATM’s are always down? Do they think access to funds is not critical? Recently telecom companies increased their call rates by 100%. Don’t customers deserve a 100% improvement in service quality?
Last week, I was at a prominent university in Eastern Uganda. The closest town to the university is 22km away, and the only banking services immediately available to the students is the one mobile money branch at the university premises. On Wednesday, many of the students hardly had a meal that day. Why? They had not received their monthly government allowances, and they could not access their funds on their mobile money accounts because the mobile money service was down for a second day running. That also reminds me of the day I had to forego an important event I had to attend because I could not access my funds from the faulty ATM machine.
I know many of you have been inconvenienced in one way or the other by the unreliable communication networks. One wonders why these same companies that provide efficient service in other countries repeatedly fail to provide reliable service to Uganda, yet we pay more for the same quality of service. From the dropped calls, to undelivered messages, to unanswered SMS queries, to the customer care helplines that are not accessible, these network operators have continued to cause users stress and losses in money and time. And I am not talking about only telecoms. There are the ISPS that provide problematic internet connections.
Why should network upgrades or maintenance work on networks be conducted at times when the networks are used most. I believe that most, if not all the network technicians that carry out the maintenance work that disrupts service have read the theory that such work needs to be carried out at times of minimum usage to minimize inconvenience to the consumer. But if that is so, then why is it that the ATMs of a certain bank are always unavailable between 7pm and 8pm. Why should ATM service be unavailable at that time? Why not at midnight? Do the operators pay more attention to the schedules of their technicians than to the millions of users whose businesses they disrupt?
The operators are not doing us a favor by providing the service. Rather, it is their responsibility to minimize inconvenience to the users. If five 9’s of availability is too high a standard for them, we shall demand for only two 9’s. Let them provide users with 99% availability. Let them inconvenience users for one hour, 40 minutes, and 48 seconds each week. At least they will have put some their networking theory to practice.
Most, if not all operators, are guilty, which explains why I did not name any operators. I would have to retrieve the full list of licensed operators from Uganda Communications Commission!Hits:2001