“Ending poverty in Africa” – a lofty goal, but we’ll see May 27, 2010

I  saw a posting on banktech.com, which led to an article on Voice of America. The basic claim of the headline – that a new mobile banking service, built on top of the existing and very successful M-Pesa money transfer service, will help eliminate poverty in Africa. This new banking service is called M-Kesho (I would love to know what that means (Kesho means “tomorrow” – thanks to Mr. Njunge for that), and is intended to reach the 60% of more of Kenyans who have no access to banking services (or to savings, loans, insurance, etc.). Of course, the headline is a bit of a stretch, but the article’s contention is that these banking services (which also enable money transfers between two people) are a critical component to ending poverty. I suspect, though, that eliminating corruption, building political stability, and providing the infrastructure for commerce across the country will also be critical to making a dent in the level of poverty, in Africa and elsewhere.

Banktech article: http://www.banktech.com/blog/archives/2010/05/could_mobile_ba.html?cid=nl_bnk_daily

Voice of America article: http://www1.voanews.com/english/news/africa/Mobile-Banking-Gives-Kenyans-New-Weapon-Against-Poverty-94942564.html

I’d welcome your thoughts. If you have comments you’re willing to share publicly, please do so – thanks.

A new twist on an old scam – robocalls to prevent verification May 20, 2010

One of the ways your bank tries to protect you from loss is by calling you if it sees transactions that look suspicious. All well and good except for a couple of things:

1) Thieves who can take control of your bank account can tell the bank you have a new phone number, and then answer the calls on your behalf.

2) Banks who are smart enough to call your previous phone number if your number was recently changed can be blocked from reaching you.

A new variation, primarily applied (thus far) to high-value thefts, uses automated calling programs to call your previous numbers, delivering dead air, advertising, and other such things. The calls continue incessantly (as much as every 30 seconds for a month). This prevents the bank from checking with your old number, and allows the thief more time to convince the bank that they do have the rights to take money out of your accounts.

See the original article in Wired magazine here.

Second in a field of one . . . April 15, 2010

Click here for a pointer to an op-ed piece in the Ventura County Star on an experience from the Science Fair, back in 1979 (when Copernicus was still practicing science).

Beyond black and white for eReaders? March 17, 2010

Following on to my notes about the iPad, there was a recent article in the IEEE Spectrum magazine about new technologies for the displays for future eReader devices. Noting in a separate commentary that the “perfect” display is always 10 years away, it’s still true that displays continue to get incrementally better.

The iPad’s display is a standard LCD – nothing you haven’t seen before, though of course not in this particular form-factor. Great for some things, like web browsing and perhaps (as others have noted) being the Internet access device that you could hang on the wall, or readily teach technophobes how to use. But for other things, like reading a book, that LCD is alleged to be somewhat hard on the eyes.

Enter the displays like the Amazon Kindle, Barnes and Noble Nook, and Sony eReader, made by a company called eInk. Very low power (for long battery life), high contrast display readable in bright light, and reportedly much easier on the eyes. But, there’s no color – making for a very monochrome view of the world.

Now, reportedly, eInk is preparing to ship its first “newspaper-grade” color displays for eBook reader makers to start integrating. Perhaps next year, we’ll have access to those devices – and then a couple of years later, to “magazine quality” color. All steps in the right direction, waiting for those early adopters to buy them, start to build volume in the market, and drive the price down for those of us who are later in the adoption curve.

Such devices may give new life to newspapers and magazines, getting folks to pull their content “on the fly” whenever they want it, wherever they want it – so they’re no longer tied to reading at a laptop (inconvenient and awkward) or paper (for better or worse, folks seem to be turning away from this medium).

Should be an exciting few years!

Taxonomy for Student Engagement with Technology March 4, 2010

A two-day series of meetings on mobile technology for learning led to the thought that perhaps there might be a taxonomy for engagement with technology for learning. Technologies involved in this discussion included things like mobile phones, e-Readers, Flip video cameras, etc. The motivation for the taxonomy was the notion that some types of interactions with these devices are inherently fairly simple – sending a text message, taking a picture, and the like. Other interactions can be far more complex – taking a picture, uploading it to a PC, uploading from there to a sharing site, and then integrating it into an essay or presentation, augmented with location information about where the picture was taken.

As one ascends this engagement taxonomy (and perhaps it’s not a straight line of ascent), things become more complex and perhaps more error-prone, and also perhaps harder for both faculty and students to manage. Hence, if we can provide a structure with which to think about the ways we want to engage our students with technology, we might be able to help both faculty and students to readily gauge how complex these interactions might be.

As a first-order view of the taxonomy, descending from most complex to least complex (or most engaging to least engaging), I propose this structure, and would welcome your feedback:

  • Integration (taking content from multiple mobile sources and combining it in unique ways or via multiple tools)
  • Collaboration (sharing content with others; using content from others)
  • Publication (making the created content available to some audience)
  • Creation (taking pictures, capturing video, writing text or messages)
  • Consumption (viewing content created by others)
  • No interaction

This is just a first draft, and may go no further. If you have comments on it, I’d welcome them – thanks in advance!

Apple’s new (and not quite yet available) iPad February 12, 2010

Kindle-Killer? Future giant iPhone? Probably neither, but there are some interesting things to consider in Apple’s new iPad.

Far be it for me to add noise to all the hoopla around Apple’s iPad, announced several days ago. But after reading numerous reviews, and seeing a few sample usage models, some observations come to mind.

Kindle Killer? Using a more “standard” LCD color display, it’s likely to be viewed (at least by some) as not as easy to read as the Kindle and other dedicated “e-Reader” devices. It’s likely to have a MUCH better user interface than the Kindle, but that won’t make the screen easy to read. On the flip side, it will have color – making for a new opportunity for publishers to put out content to a device that folks may want to read books and news on.

It will certainly be interesting to see how the market for books settles down between Apple and Amazon. Until the industry gets cross-platform capabilities to work right, and allows me to move my content (that I bought) from my Kindle to my iPad, I’m going to be reluctant to make any big investments in either hardware or content.

Giant iPhone? Some had hoped that perhaps one could use the device as a cross between phone and laptop, and get the best of both in one device. Alas, no phone, no camera in the iPad.

Most notable, to me, is not the question of what device it might kill, but what new path it might start. If, instead of viewing it as just a tablet (nice in itself, for the kinds of things we do today with “tablet-ized” notebook PCs), if one adds a keyboard (already being pitched as an add-on), what emerges is a potentially very capable notebook replacement for e-mail, web browsing, book and document reading, etc. Not sure if that’s what Apple has in mind, but it does look attractive from that perspective – but only if they put enough application power on the device (read – what apps can I run, and what will it cost?) to make it useful for those people.

One key remaining concern for me is Apple’s continued stranglehold over apps for the device. I understand the desire to make the experience robust and secure for their users, but they’re also conveniently stifling competition in the process (witness Google Voice for the iPhone).

Other missing features to make it really useful in this mode (and for other things as well!):

  • Multi-tasking
  • USB or other suitable connectivity
  • Printing

What do you think? I’ll be interested to hear.

For other good reads on the topic, check out:

10 Features missing from the iPad (eWeek)

The iPad Questions Apple Won’t Answer (InfoWorld)

A tablet based on Google’s Chrome OS? (HotHardware)

A compendium of blogosphere comments assembled by CNN

Links for Information Systems Researchers January 3, 2010

I found a rich list of links in a discussion board related to Information Systems. The links are all related to research on Information Systems, including methodology, writing, domain-specific resources, citation tools, and much more. The creator of the list graciously allowed me to post an interim version here. My thanks to Professor Dan Remenyi, with whom I’ve corresponded many times.

Happy New Year,

Paul Witman

Welcome to Paul’s home page March 23, 2009

You’ve reached the home page of Paul Witman, Assistant Professor of Information Technology Management in the CLU School of Business, and Director of the MS-Information Systems and Technology degree program.

See the links to key information areas at the right of the page.

Churches and Online Social Networks February 27, 2009

This study will investigate the impact of online social networks for church members on those members’ levels of engagement in the life of the church. Specifically, we hope to determine how and whether social networks for the church, including online calendars, discussion boards, and the like, might contribute to behaviors such as greater involvement in church activities including worship, small groups, and volunteer leadership roles. Additionally, we will examine whether use of such tools also contributes to higher levels of giving, either to specific requests or to the routine fund raising of the church. Research hypotheses and a research methodology are proposed, along with directions for future research.