Do you think we are becoming over dependence on technology? Technology brought us numerous conveniences and substantial cost saving (although such savings are not always necessary pass onto the customer). Just think about web based flight check-in services, on-line bills payment, even tax returns. But is the push for technology truly matched by increased reliability and usability or are we just rushing to push everything online?
I was reading “TurboTax e-filing woes draw customer ire” (News.com), one sentence in the article really stood out for me.
What the outage does highlight is the risk of relying on a system that has a single point of failure: With paper-based filing, if one post office is closed or is jammed with a long line, another one likely will do the trick.
Seriously, reliability and usability are paramount in a self service world we now live in.
Last year I tried to do my tax return on-line with e-tax, I hate it. I went through the entire application, anyone can tell you the tax regime in AU is way too complicated! I found my submission only to be denied because the name I provided differs from the name registered against my tax file number. I entered my name exactly in the same format as a letter from the tax office. I gave up trying to represent my full name (as appeared in my passport) here in Aus.
My point is technology is only really useful if reliability ( at the software and network layer) and usability considerations are part in it.
(Via Kevin Schofield’s post) Given the ubiquity of SMS and rising demand for SMS applications, MSRIndia has developed a SMS Toolkit which enables anyone with a PC and a Windows Mobile Phone to run their own SMS server.
This raises opportunity for developers to connect their interesting PC and Internet applications to SMS capable phones and create new useful SMS based apps; heralding a new era of mobile commerce especially in emerging markets.
To run the SMS Toolkit, the hardware requirements are:
- An application Unlocked Windows Mobile 5.0 based phone
- A PC running Windows XP or Vista
- A USB cable to connect your phone to your PC
- SQL Server 2005 Compact Edition
- Activesync 4.0 and above
To find out more and download the MSRIndia SMS Toolkit, visit the project’s Codeplex page.
Related link: Microsoft Research India blog
Sample screenshot of a sample application scenario (SMS news item broadcast)
Obesity is so revered among Mauritania’s white Moor Arab population that the young girls are sometimes force-fed to obtain a weight the government has described as “life-threatening”. Obesity has long been the ideal of beauty, signaling a family’s wealth in a land.
Although few women are force-fed today, many feel pressured to be bigger-than-average. Many have turned to a more scientific method of weight gain, using animal steroids intended for fattening camels and foreign-made appetite-inducing pills.
To end the brutal feeding practices, the government has launched a TV and radio campaign highlighting the health risks of obesity. Because most Mauritanian love songs describe the ideal woman as fat, the health ministry commissioned catchy odes to thin women.
These efforts, combined with the rising popularity of foreign soap operas featuring model-thin women, has helped reduce the practice, especially among the country’s urban elite.
Listen to Assignment – Mauritania, fatness and beauty (BBC World Service) for the complete story.