In presenting this article to your notice, kindly bare in mind certain truths, which might escape your memory on this subject of data collection. Be pleased to remember that data collection activities dates back to the 10th century and we are by no means challenging its discipline. However, we are questioning the relevance of a data that is collected and recorded by hand over a period of 6 months, transformed into digital format, verified and analyzed into useful information over another period of 8 months and published towards the end of the following year.
A thousand years and counting, you must be very familiar with walk-in visitors by the name of field interviewers from “so and so research” institution. Once admitted, the interviewer is always very swift to pull out the booklet only to be publicly embarrassed in your audience, with the sheaf of pages coming loose, the spine of the book cracked and ripped, with dog-eared corners at the pages duly equipped to start the interview. This experience of embarrassment inadvertently alerts you to the substandard data collection exercise, which threatens the beliefs you hold concerning the integrity of the research institution and the reliability of the survey outcome.
And yet, the explosive growth in the availability of mobile phones in Africa even in some of the poorest, most remote communities of Kenya does not seem to interest these institutions into adopting automation in data collection, management and delivery. You have heard it said before that if the eyes did not see, the hands wouldn’t take it; and so DewCIS Solutions Ltd has seized this opportunity to create innovative mobile data-centric applications that explore how these devices might be used effectively as part of large scale data collection efforts across various sectors including census, health, market trends and general information gathering.
DewCIS has developed a workflow-driven mobile data collection application, named dataNomads, to streamline the process of data collection and synchronization with the online central database. The application is developed on the open source android mobile platform, allowing it to run on a wide range of devices.
One remarkable feature that makes dataNomads app particularly interesting and extremely useful in the field is that it is has been written to work without network coverage. It might not surprise you that most of remote Kenya is still outside the range of most Internet service providers. So, rather than enumerators collecting information continuously to an online database, all the data is collected and stored locally on the device and uploaded to the online repository only when access to Internet connectivity is restored.
As soon as data from field crew is synchronized with the central database, managers are able to review it in an easy to use Google Earth interface. This interface also allows managers to track progress, identify errors or inconsistencies, and provide feedback to field crew in real time. By exploiting the geolocation capability, exact locations and timestamp of data submitted are displayed on the map as thematically rendered icons, and can be updated in real time to reflect the most current state of the data collection effort.
With minimal training, dataNomads application has the potential to reduce field data collection time by over 50% while its validation features significantly reduce errors providing more accurate and reliable information. More importantly, with pen and paper, you are never sure if the surveyor has really gone to the field to collect the data or if he generated fictitious data while seated under the comfort of a sycamore tree.
In today’s rapidly changing markets, business leaders must make critical decisions like whom should they target with their products or which direction should they expand? They often rely on just internal business data, such as last year’s sales analytics. While internal data gives a great picture about how your business performed in the past, it does not reveal how your business will perform in the future. Faced with this dilemma, within the limits of your own resources, the answer may well be hidden in data outside of your internal systems! With our innovative dataNomads mobile application, we promise business leaders immediate access to diverse datasets gathered from the field, to drive highly targeted business decisions.
Surely, the earth has music for those who listen. Save trees by avoiding unnecessary use of paper and care for the environment by keeping it clean. Our contribution therefore, is to collaborate with research organizations and data driven enterprises to adopt innovative mobile data collection technologies that would waste less energy and boost their credibility, save money and shape how their businesses evolves into the future.
You, too, could have hit a jackpot had you invested in Bitcoins! Have you been a victim of this kind of lecture? Well, rest easy, for the most of us, with the exception of a very lucky few, it is an endless wait.
In an effort to make our readers understand this wilderness cryptocurrency, I will borrow the analogy of reconstructing a shattered pot to explain what Bitcoin business is all about? The intrinsic value of earthenware is easy to find when watching a skillful potter put his talent at play creating functional pieces, which are also decorative and often meant to be appreciated purely as works of art.
In the African setup, before the invention of the malleable iron and the versatile plastic, our adorable mothers used to carry water in these lovely shaped and delicately baked earthenware. You will agree with me that fetching water from the well and trekking several miles to the homestead while carefully balancing a pot full of water on the head, sometimes on high winds is a recipe for disaster. One occasion, the pot would come down and crash into scattered tiny bits of pieces called potsherds dispersing all its contents along with it. My dear reader, consider this unfortunate event of the crashing of the pot to mark the invention of the Bitcoin with individual potsherd pieces numbered a total of 21 million bitcoins.
Now, we set out to reconstruct the pot based on blockchain technology by mending the individual potsherd pieces together using fillers, glue and cold glaze to its original shape and form, and build the business of Bitcoin as a cryptocurrency over the Internet. The continuous process of searching, finding, identifying the correct potsherd piece to fit the puzzle and painstakingly building the original pot is christened Bitcoin mining; and this requires enormous resources and time as you can imagine.
As far as cryptocurrency is concern, this calls for expensive investment in serious computing power to negotiate and append a new unique block of code into an already existing, fragile and growing record of transactions. Because the pieces are so scattered, the source of the next find is somewhat distributed into a sort of organized chaos by design; for nobody in particular knows where the next solution will come from. This lack of an overseeing body like the Central Bank to release new currency whenever the market demands or requires it is a core feature of the definition of a cryptocurrency.
In the case of Bitcoin, new coins are released on a steady and predictable rate using a coded mathematical formula. This rate started with 50 new bitcoins every hour and is halved until around the year 2140 when there will be no more bitcoins to release. Dear reader, at this point to understand Bitcoin mining, think of it as the process of verifying these transactions in its simplest form. In the beginning, bitcoins could be mined on home computers and were awarded at about $2 each. Now mining is a much more complicated and energy-intensive process involving giant mining farms of thousands of computers across the globe.
Now that we have a better grasp of what Bitcoin and Bitcoin mining is, let us take a deep dive into the business of cryptocurrency and explore rumours, truths and lies. As at January 2018, there are over 1,384 cryptocurrencies available over the Internet similar to Bitcoin but based on different algorithms including Ethereum, Litecoin, Primecoin; and many more are being created every day.
A cryptocurrency only has value in its exchange, which means that in itself, it has no inherent value much the same as a ‘conventional’ currency. A Shilling is only worth what someone is willing to give another for that Shilling. If everyone stops accepting the Shilling, won’t it become worthless? So it goes without saying that a cryptocurrency is only worth what someone will exchange for it.
The burning question therefore is whether Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are the future of digital money? Judging from what the inventors of the first popular cryptocurrency Bitcoin, Satoshi Nakamoto and others envisioned it for, it is becoming increasingly difficult to consider Bitcoing as a currency. Recent developments show that Bitcoin is becoming less of a payment network and is instead evolving into digital gold, much like when our precious 2,000-year old pot is fully reconstructed and auctioned to a collector for an antique. The initial price of a bitcoin, set in 2010, was less than 1 Kenya Shilling and as at December 2017 the value had surged to over KES 1,600,000 but has since dipped to KES 1,100,000 in January 2018.
This rally from the investment world is dampening any hope that bitcoin will mature into a means of exchange. Currencies need to remain broadly stable in their valuation to ensure that commerce can take place. Certainly, there is bound to be some shift in the value of the coins in your pocket and that is why foreign exchange trading is a business, but put simply, a shilling should buy you the same thing on Monday as it does the following Friday.
Understandably, Gold is valuable because it has many industrial and decorative uses. Its price can fluctuate due to speculation on financial markets, but it can never fall to zero. There will always be someone willing to accept gold because it’s a useful commodity. Conversely, one has to ask if Bitcoin is really valuable? It has no industrial or decorative use, and it doesn’t entitle the holder to receive interest. It was intended to be valuable as a currency that is accepted the world over, but that doesn’t seem to be happening either. Perhaps, the only major value that Bitcoin has now is its exchange value. Many people are willing to pay a lot of money today to get hold of some Bitcoin. But what they are getting for their money is simply the ‘hope’ that another buyer down the line will pay even more money for the same coins. One is therefore forgiven to hold that once the hype stops, there will be no fundamental value to prevent the bitcoins’ price from falling close to zero. To many of us, this reason definitely falls on deaf ears. We take comfort in a euphoric attitude that always leads to a bubble with some investors of initial coin offerings (ICOs) reaping big while the rest of the park is kept busy with occasional speculative and destructive busts which often leave many investors counting losses.
For the bold and wild investors, it may do you good to keep watch of the upcoming G20 meeting in March 2018, where policymakers will discuss tighter regulations or possible crippling of cryptocurrencies all together. For us in the technology industry, we must thank Bitcoin and the other cryptocurrencies not for their elusive ‘currency’ and emerging pyramid schemes but for the supporting technologies borne of these inventions. When I think about cryptography and blockchaining technologies, several opportunities stir my fancy including; cheap almost free money transfers methods, universal ID for every person alive, smart contracts, voting, Internet of Things (IoT) and many others.
I once went to a building in Nairobi town to look for an office space to rent. At the main entrance, I found guards who directed me to the property manager’s office and on the door there was a plate that read, “We deal with honest money only; gold, silver or shekels”. Because I was very much in need, I inquired if there are any tenants whose leases are about to expire at the end of that year 2017, and how much rent a square foot would cost? The office holder responded that the offices would be vacant when the property owner says so and the rent depends on your relationship with him as well.
A simple survey of investors with property in Kenya found that two out of five self-managing landlords interviewed had experienced tenants defaulting on rent. It also found that landlords who used Property Managers to manage their relationships with tenants faced fewer problems.
In our society today, property managers handle an array of responsibilities that come along with this business, more importantly minimizing vacancies in rental properties and ensuring that landlords receive the maximum return on investment while helping the rental business run more smoothly.
Commercial property management for retail, industrial and office space have distinct needs from residential properties. An effective property management software such as this offered by Dewcis Solutions Ltd would help property managers create detailed financial projections, automatically calculate rent increases, create recurring charges for each tenant and communicate critical leasehold notices in time, among other things.
These days, the ability to always be connected to the Internet, ease of use and technological advancement are among the primary reasons why automation is the key to business. Our property management system exploits all these three elements and enables property agents to access the solution online from any location, which reduces the operational costs and enhances the flexibility of management.
One of the fastest-growing trends in the Kenya market today is the ability to accept payments online. With the rapid growth in the number of online transactions and purchases, tenants expect an automated cashless payment system such as what is implemented in our property management software to be an integral part of the hosted application.
A comprehensive and commercial-oriented accounting application inbuilt within our property management software, can drastically reduce the amount of time spent calculating figures at the end of each month and thereby boost efficiency and freeing up valuable time for other essential tasks.
The reason to pen this write-up could not be more obvious, which is to encourage adoption of our state of the art property management software; to improve speed and quality of service, manage costs, improve tenant satisfaction, and ensure quality and safety in equipment and the property itself. While our property management solution provides the tools and insights needed to do just this, we have gone a step further to elevate your business above your competitors by incorporated SMS and email notifications of various critical lease related actions to keep you, your tenants and landlord compliant.
The comfort of Living is a very serious matter in Kenya. After all, aside from the car we drive and the company we keep, the places in which we live are the biggest indicators of our status within the culture. And so, it goes without saying that when an issue arises with the living conditions, tenants demand prompt response from their property managers.
Over the past few years, mobile and web technology has grown by leaps and bounds. While this is undeniably true, the same cannot be said of the property management sector in Kenya where the use of technology is still a foreign concept.
DewCIS, a software solutions company has recently unveiled Baraza Properties, a hosted online application for the benefit of property managers to run their businesses more effectively and streamline operations; make life more enjoyable and less costly for everyone – tenants, managers, property owners.
There is a general notion that “systems” are usually complicated tools that are a preserve of the few. Well aware of this ill-conceived narrative, DewCIS was particularly keen to design and develop a simple to use product with very little learning to do. The design idea was “beauty in simplicity”, with a compelling interface easy to adapt and use within the shortest possible time with very little computer exposure.
The ever-unpredictable daily nature of property management environment means it’s easy to spend the majority of your time firefighting issues instead of planning ahead and creating long term solutions. Baraza Properties can help by automating manually intensive processes, meaning you and your team have got more time to focus on the tasks you can’t wish away.
Taking on more properties to manage as your business grows traditionally, meant more work and therefore recruiting more staff to run around. Thanks to DewCIS, the technology that is now available to property management teams using Baraza Properties means this doesn’t have to be the case. Automated notifications and streamlined workflows will make it easier to efficiently manage and keep track of your portfolio and check on costs.
Attempting to keep track of critical property dates such as rent reviews, routine maintenance, insurance renewals, service charge, year ends etc would soon run you into very costly trouble and in some cases legal penalties with your tenants and or landlords. Baraza Properties with automatic diary reminders and a dashboard with a full view of outstanding tasks empower property managers to no longer have to worry about missing key dates or deadlines.
Having a full view of your business portfolio is key to being able to stay afloat in business and work on expansion. Using our online property management system will enable you to maintain a single cohesive data source, providing you with a full view of your portfolio and critical reports at the click of a button.
The idea behind this article is therefore to urge property managers in this region to use the New Year as an excuse to think of embracing our hosted online Baraza Properties in these coming years and avoid pitfalls by continuing to do the same things in the same old fashioned ways and getting the same poor results.