Until fifteen years ago, people in VT Station, Bombay, slept overnight in queues, hoping to get reservation for a journey planned for 60 days later. Touts flourished in an inefficient system. Coercion and corruption was felt by the common man. I remember my travails in the long train travels, often with family, during my days in the Navy.
In 1995 the entire railway reservation system was computerised through the railway’s intranet. This technical solution has reduced the strain of ticket booking which would not have been possible by repeatedly criticising the inefficient system or other movements. Managerial will and technology solutions together can improve systems.
Now we book train tickets any day of the week, any time of the day, with the convenience of very personal computer connected to the net. After using the facilities for several years, a month ago the site asked for my mobile phone number again, but rejected the one I provided. The system had that number and demanded some other number from me. I could not claim my number to be mine, but some other number would be fine. To get out of the situation, I gave my daughter’s mobile phone number. Now, she gets text messages when I book a ticket.
Internet banking is another facility that I like. A bank where I have a savings account for the past 16 years, introduced a secured banking feature and urged me to use it whenever I tried to log in for internet banking. When I asked for the secured banking feature, they asked me to get my mobile phone number correctly recorded at their branch. No secure banking if you do not have a mobile phone.
In two other banks, I have been using fund transfer facilities and now wanted the facility from this bank as well. To provide this facility, they needed my mobile phone number. For every fund transfer request, they send me an OTP (One Time Password) by text message to the mobile phone. In addition to the login password and authorisation password, I have to enter OTP. Other two banks do not need this. Are they less secure by not having my mobile phone number?
When UIDAI announced enrollment for aadhar cards, I promptly went with my wife and daughter to Karvy Associates, Basavanagudi, to enrol. With other personal data, they sought our mobile phone numbers. My wife does not have a mobile phone. The agency told her that mobile phone number was a mandatory field and then she unwillingly gave my number. They would have accepted any other imaginary or real number, I suppose.
Who can get an Aadhaar?
An individual who is a resident in India and satisfies the verification process laid down by the UIDAI can get an Aadhaar.
Any individual found in India can get UID, irrespective of age, nationality, income level, with or without an address … I appreciate that. However, getting UID for one who does not own a mobile phone connection? No! He cannot be uniquely identified by UIDAI.
Maximum coherence and minimal coupling between modules are the qualities professed by software professionals.
Merriam Webster dictionary defines coherence as “systematic or logical connection or consistency” and gives an example usage: “the house has been expanded and remodeled so many times that now it’s a jumbled mess that lacks coherence.” The dictionary also gives very positive synonyms of the word: balance, harmony, consonance, proportion, orchestration, symmetry, symphony, unity.
A system with good coherence between its various parts or subsystems has high quality and elegance.
Coupling introduces dependency by one part on others. Whereas certain amount of dependency between parts is normal when we build systems, excessive dependencies make it difficult to expand, enhance, maintain, or repair the system. We strive to minimise coupling, in effect reducing pre-conditions.
To learn the properties of coherence, consider laser light. Coherence is one of the unique properties of laser light. A common stimulus triggers the emission events which provide the amplified light. The emitted photons are “in step” and have a definite phase relation to each other. This coherence is described in terms of temporal coherence and spatial coherence.
Concepts of coherence and coupling are not limited to physics and software engineering. They apply to our thinking style and day-to-day activities. When we think of completeness and quality, we have to exclude what cannot be logically inclusive and what cannot be operationally consistent. A non-coherent system would also invite difficult couplings. Non-coherent thinking and communication affects social interactions and team work.
Consider the example of Internet banking. Use of Internet technology is a necessity to enjoy the facility and is coherent with the system. Mobile phone is a different technology and for a different core purpose. If banking industry tries to create coupling between the two, their service quality will suffer. If OTP is a need, sending it by email would be more coherent than by SMS. Internet is closer to email than to a mobile phone.
If I have access to internet it is not necessary that I have a mobile phone connection. Even if I have a mobile phone, I may not carry it to a browsing centre from where I may like to transfer funds from my account. I may forget the gadget when I go on a trip. I may not on purpose carry my mobile phone during trips abroad as it is very expensive to operate outside the country.
Mobile phone connectivity is bad in some places. There are several buildings where cell coverage is poor. One has to to take his PC on the road, not forgetting the mobile phone. That puts one more demand – you need a laptop (mobile) PC, not a desk-top version.
Suggestions: OTP may not be needed in addition to the two passwords – login and authentication. Give a choice to the customer to opt for OTP and also to select to receive OTP by email, SMS or in person from the branch. We also have to reflect how we can effectively use land-line phones, whose importance is relegated with the wide spread use of mobile phones.