Blockchain in Papua New Guinea, Myth or Messiah

Even if you aren’t in the technology field, you would have had to be living under a rock to have not heard anything about Blockchain. Blockchain is the “ledger” that enables cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin to be bought and sold, and is increasingly being investigated for use in other financial types of transactions and in the case of Papua New Guinea being looked at as a method to bank the unbanked. 80% of Papua New Guinean’s do not use banking facilities, some by choice, some by virtue that they don’t need it, and some just because they have no way of even getting to a bank. There is also the requirement for Banks and Financial Institutions to perform significant due diligence on it’s customers with the primary starting point being KYC (Know Your Customer). When you open a bank account you must have some form of approved identification, and that’s just the first hurdle. What happens when you have regionalisation of registries (eg: Births), but you have moved locations? (You need to plane ride to get anywhere out of Moresby) What if you happen to have more than one name? Or have been married in accordance with tribal or religious beliefs, but never registered that marriage – but taken another name?

Now imagine that the 80% unbanked, pretty much equals the 80% of the population without a mobile phone, 90% of population without internet access, and then 80% of people living a subsidence life with only 20% of the population in formal sector employment.

So, 80% of people in PNG may not have access to any clear form of identification, making the governing principles of simply opening a bank account extremely difficult for the majority of Papua New Guineans. Yes – there are other forms of obtaining identification, one being the “vouch for” system (highly dubious at best), “statutory declarations” again, just because a Commission of Oaths has signed and stamped it, doesn’t make it true. The Superannuation Funds could provide a single source of ID, however they too are only capturing the formal sector and only companies that are registered with the Funds. Some smaller companies don’t have to be contributing to Super, and as we well know – SME’s are generally the backbone of any nation and PNG is numbered amongst them.

So any Financial Inclusion program to get the unbanked banked, is going to have to address how to correctly identify Papua New Guineans. And at the moment, Employer ID (which is easily faked), drivers license, birth certificate and passport are the main ID’s. However, lets not forget the National ID program setup to resolve some of these issues, but ultimately is a siloed system where you do still have to vouch for a person (I know – I have done this). And still, it doesn’t gamechange the PNG identity system, it doesn’t make it easy for Banks, it doesn’t make it easy for anyone.

So how does Blockchain come into the picture?

At the moment – I think Blockchain could be a lost opportunity for PNG. The focus is certainly around Financial Inclusion, and the Bank of Papua New Guinea is driving a program to investigate monetary transfers via Blockchain. But that isn’t the problem, we already have lots of methods to transfer monies, some have failed and some are succeeding – already the Bank of Papua New Guinea led National Payment Gateway is going to create more and more choice. Adding another may create more confusion for people, and unless we look seriously at Internet/Computer Literacy we could be opening ourselves to plenty of other issues (read my previous article). At least with the formal Banks and Microfinancing units, people have a place to point the finger if things go wrong.

Where should we use Blockchain technology?

At it’s heart, Blockchain is a record and customer management tool. If we were building a new National ID system today, we should be gamebreaking and using Blockchain principles. Imagine a Niugini ID System, that the following agencies and sectors could use to validate, add, and update:

  1. Birth’s, Death’s & Marriages
  2. Customs
  3. Inland Revenue Commssion
  4. Immigration
  5. Passport Control and Issuing
  6. Drivers Licensing
  7. Superannuation Member ID
  8. Credit Bureau
  9. Finance
  10. Banking
  11. Telecommunication Companies
  12. Companies Office
  13. Elections
  14. Health

Therefore not only creating a single source of truth, but a vehicle to now allow realtime verified payments integrating Banks to Customers. An integrated KYC system. Be able to now apply for a passport online, as you are NID verified. Be able to vote in national elections on your NID authorised mobile app. Be able to pay your taxes automatically; apply for Finance without needing to actually see someone; connect a mobile phone number to your NID; and of course be able to open a Bank Account via a mobile phone.

People keep talking about Blockchain being a “game changer” but there is just a lot of fluff and hot air about Blockchain, not only in PNG, but also Australia, NZ and the rest of the world. And the reason is simple, no-one wants to reinvent the wheel, maybe they have already spent millions on API’s that allow integration, and the R&D for Blockchain is just too costly and heaven forbid, something else comes along that is better – or Blockchain gets hacked or, or, or… you get the picture.

Geez – we still have companies operating systems that are 20+ years old, that think IT is where you find nerds to help you fix your shaky mouse problem. How do we make those companies see IT investment especially in technology like Blockchain isn’t a cost, it’s a priority to ensure their business is going to be around in the future. How many BCP’s state investment in technology is critical to the continuity of our business? How many company strategies identify time working on gamebreaking strategies will account for increase in revenue? Is it because they don’t trust it? Do you, reading this blog, ever wonder how Uber came to be so dominating in just a few years, or why some of the most valuable companies in the world are tech companies… The gamebreakers (not gamechangers), disrupters and innovators.

Papua New Guinea is in a unique situation (having jumped the PC generation) being a nation built on mobility, it can take advantage of technologies such as Blockchain to create an integrated Government/Commercial record system that would be the envy of the world. The rest of us are playing catchup, PNG has an opportunity to take the lead.

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Last day as a PNG Bachelor

 It’s been a cruisey, but lonely couple of weeks here in Port Moresby.  Having spent a week sick with malaria, I think I have a bit of cabin fever – so can’t wait for Jacinta and the kids to get back tomorrow.

An eventful day at work today, with no water in the whole of our building – which is the biggest building in PNG.  So thankfully, we have company friends that let us use their bathrooms – if you know what I mean!

One of my goals here at work, is to make our department one where we have lots of fun, but also where we work hard and set an example for the rest of the company.  One of the fun things that we do, is have free throws at a very small basket, using a foam ball as big as a baseball.  The target is at head height, and is made of heavy paper, and only just fits the ball in.  Then we walk back, either at 5 meters or 8 meters, and shoot.  Because of the ceiling height – it is really hard to do, with only 2 of us sinking it from 8 meters (with me hitting it 3 times to date).  The balls curve through the air, bounce off the cubicals, and generally – are bloody hard to get into this little target.  Every Friday we all put 1 kina into the pot, and have a one shot competition.  No practice – just shoot.  So far – the pot hasn’t been won, but I’m sure it will soon 🙂

It.. Is… FUN!

And it means we banter, throw the ball at each other – and really use it as a de-stress time.  I wonder if I can get away with an Xbox in the office?  🙂

Right, must fly – short sharp blog post, so that I can enjoy the solitude for one last night 🙂

Aaron

Infopath 2010, Append Comments

OK – so for some reason, I am doing another IT related post.  This relates to Infopath 2010, with Sharepoint 2010 – and appending comments to the infopath form.

The past couple of days I have been beating myself up trying to fix this problem.  I have an infopath 2010 form that populates a sharepoint list.  Inside the form is a comments section (yes you guessed it – it’s an IT Helpdesk system) that has a read only repeating section in it, so the the IT guy can add a comment to the helpdesk task/job and it records it for the future.  I created this exact mechinism in the HR system I build in sharepoint, so I know it’s pretty simple.  However, the repeating section kept being overwritten by the comment, and not appending to the form.  So I checked the HR infopath form – and yes, everything identical, then trolled on the internet – and found people saying that you had to do it with code, or workflow etc…  But I know that I didn’t do it with code or workflow in my HR system, so it had to be in the frontend somewhere.

I played around with different ways to do it in infopath, and then thought I’d better check the settings of the column in the list.  Checked the column settings, and yes – “append” had been checked, so that was fine.  Spent “far too much time” mucking around, then went back to the column settings, and decided to “refresh” the check box – by turning off the appending, and then turning it back on again.  And wouldn’t you know it – it threw up an error telling me I had to have versioning on to append text.

d’oh!

At the time, I was thinking – I am such a DOOFUS!!!!  Turned on versioning – and now the infopath form allows appending of history…

On reflection, what a stupid thing to have to do to allow this, so tomorrow – I am going to play around with the versioning settings and see if an append means an unlimited amount of versions are required.

Is it just me – or is this another one of those – “why did they do that” moments..?

Infopath 2010, Sharepoint 2010, IE8 to IE9 Bug

Wow – yup, it’s me, posting about a gotcha/bug/quirk/random/issue relating to our Sharepoint 2010 installation, infopath 2010 and IE8 vs IE9.

So I have an everlasting problem with my desktop at work, in that it is BSOD me once or twice (sometimes more) a day since Thursday.  It started after I got infected with some Windows 7 Security spyware, and then did a restore to a previous restore point on the PC.  Too busy to really fix it – until today, when I updated via Windows Update – and decided “to hell with the devil” and installed IE9.

If you know me – then you know that I love Sharepoint, so the first things I did once IE9 was installed, was to test drive it through both our WSS3 site and our Sharepoint 2010 site.  Everything seemed to be working… until…  I opened an infopath filler form published in our Sharepoint 2010 environment and recieved the following error:

Error

There has been an error while loading the form.
Click Try Againto attempt to load the form again. If this error persists, contact the support team for the Web site.Click Close to exit this message.
Hide error details
This form template is not enabled for viewing in the browser.

Correlation ID:2271a4f0-8cf4-4ae8-8fc0-6d4dda0987eb

How very odd – it worked in IE8.  So I went to our WSS3 site and tried an Infopath 2007 and 2010 Filler form – and it worked fine.  So I busted my arse hunting down the problem, tested with IE8 – which still worked fine, and then spotted that under the context menu for an existing form – that I could open it in either a browser or filler form.  Tried it in the filler form – and it worked – sweet.  So, into the > library settings > advanced settings > Opening Documents in the Browser

Here you have three options for the default open behavior for browser-enabled documents:

  1. Open in the client application
  2. Open in the browser
  3. Use the server default (Open in the browser)

And – yes, ours was set to: 3.  Use the server default (Open in the browser)

Changing this setting to: 1. Open in the client application  – of course, fixes the behaviour… however – it doesn’t explain why IE8 user behaviour opens it in the client application, when it should open in the browser…  very strange, and a gotcha if you are using Infopath 2010 Filler Forms, Sharepoint 2010 and IE8 – and then upgrade to IE9 and wonder why your users can’t open forms anymore…