Utility Payment Kiosks

NADRA has started allowing consumers to pay their bills electronically with the aid of computerized kiosk’s. the Jang reports.

The KIOSK machines installation process would be completed by the end of August 2005. Nadra, in initial phase, is considering installing around 25-40 KIOSK machines in Karachi only.

That’s where the problem lies. They have moved the entire nation to these computerized NIC’s and have them registered to their systems, and they expect to handle a city of 15 million people with just 40 kiosk’s? And let me guess, they’re built on a pirated windows platform as well. The article proudle boasts that the machines can handle over 300 users in a 24 hour period.

No user will ever be paying their bills at 2 in the morning. I can still see the four hour queues of users trying to pay their utility bills on time. Why don’t we have an online payment system yet since everything is all computerized now?

The kicker: Will there be separate ladies kiosk’s?

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3 Responses to “Utility Payment Kiosks”

  1. haq says:

    nadra: no fullfilling it’s true potentialThis is not related to the electronic bills and off-topic but something I wanted to rant about Nadra’s electronic passports. Let me tell you of my attempt to acquire one not-too-long-ago.

    So, as you may know, all new Pakistani passports must be the electronic ones which Nadra issues. For all of Karachi (from about pop of 15 million) Nadra has generously opened up one passport office where people can apply. I went to the place a day earlier and got my passport fees payed up hoping to come early the next day and quickly hand over the documents they needed, get a picture and thumb print taken and be done with it. I came in at 7am the next day 30th person in line. Waited for about 1.5 hours for the Awami Markaz to open up. Once the gates opened up, people start running to line up outside Nadra’s office, now the fun begins. The entrance to the damned place is proceeded by a dark, narrow and long corridor. The corridor is wide enough for 3 parallel lines to be formed. It’s dark and hot in there. There are a total of 2 tube lights and 1 fan for a 50 feet corridor. There were approximately 80-90 people jammed in there in July Karachi weather. I was still about 30th in the mens line (ladies were standing in a seperate line next to us) at about 8:30 in the morning.

    I waited there for 5 hours before I came to my senses and left the line. At the end of it, I still did’nt get my chance to get _into_ the office (remember I was the 30th person in line). It was so hot and packed in that corridor that at the end of the wait I had more of other people’s sweat on me than my own. It was brutal there, if you’ve ever wanted to see how people will start acting when they are streched to the absolute limit, you should go stand in that line.

    So back to why I could not into the office. Even though I was 30th in line to begin with, the office inside was packed with people. How? Because of such great demand for the new passport, since a) you can only get the electronic ones now, b) more embassies require you have the electronic passport when applying for a visa and more improtantly c) there is 1 office for 15 million people. There are a huge number of ‘passport walas’ outside the office. Give them a couple of hundred ruppess, they’ll split it 50/50 with the guards manning Nadar’s office backdoors and let you into the office, allowing you to jump past the corridor of death entirely. I suspect everyone at the office gets a piece of the 200 rs. Indeed, that is why the local management doesn’t add a couple more fans and lights to the corridor.

    Anyway, it was a pretty bad expierience. I’m not sure why anyone in their right mind would ever think that 1 passport office for Karachi will ever be enough. I think Nadra has good people and alot of potential, but people higher up in the food chain have alot to lose if the transparency Nadra’s system offers ever does materialize.

    * ps — really it was pretty bad in there. Imagine yourself in one of those psycho movies playing the killer’s role. Now multiply that by 80, place each psycho ass to croch, shoulder to shoulder in a 10 by 50 feet prison, crank up the temprature to 100 deg and have a freaking guard shout at them every 5 minutes.

  2. chowkidar says:

    RE: nadra: no fullfilling it’s true potentialI had a similarly frustrating experience at the passport office when I wanted to get it renew. Lesson learnt: Pay the 200-400 rupees and let them handle the whole process. They too are underpaid. The people working in the office also end up dealing with a rowdy, frustrated bunch throughout the day. The whole place is filled aggravated cynics.

  3. chowkidar says:

    on the contrary, it sounds good to meIt makes sense to launch a small number of machines in dense urban regions and measuring their success as a pilot study, then expand the system. It wouldn’t do anyone any good to anyone to invest the tax payers money into a couple hundred bill-payment kiosks which may eventually fail.

    Further, I think this is targetted toward the middle and lower-middle class. Reason follows in the answer to your question.

    Why don’t we have online payment systems instead of investing in all these kiosks? It’s probably because the households that have a computer (~50K) have servants who can drop the payments of at the bank. This is targetted toward people who don’t have computers (hence lower-middle). The kiosk simple replaces the man behind the desk (and why not. anything that’s procedural can be automated) and possibly skip the middle man altogether (in this case the bank, which recieves payment for government utilities).

    As for the benchmarks, I would think that if each user takes 5 minutes on average, to a pay bill (quite a long time; if you’re familiar with an ATM you can be done in under 2 minutes) that’s 12 users per hour or 120 users in a 10 hour period (9am-8pm) which is still not bad (or about 260 in a 24 hour period). In either case, they are not simply bragging. Capacity planning is part of the design of the system and once the system is complete, specs have to be published regarding the capacity and performance (aka benchmarking) of the system so it can be benchmarked against future version and progress can be tracker. You might argue that the metrics they are using for benchmarking (# of users that can be served per day) could have been chosen differently (# of users that can be served per hour) but it’s inconsequential.

    This is a great effort. My only concern is the waste of resources. These kiosks for example probably cost between 6-10 lacs (or more) if you factor in the hardware, the software, the land/location, the security measures and possibly the cementing etc. In such a scenario the machine would pay for its own fixed cost in about ~4 years (the cost of replacing a bank person who probably gets 20K per month) but that’s a naive estimation. There’s the whole cost of the backend infrastrucure, networking infrastructure, running cost and so on. They probably have to employ a bunch of IT personell to maintain the system but the bet here is that if the system catches on and expands, economies of scale will kick in. The feasibility might not look so bad then.

    The could mitigate the risk by designing a scalable system. For example if the system is designed such that tomorrow it can accept deposits for other vendors who may wish to piggy back on the system, or if the system can function as a full blown ATM (that brings up another issue. When tomorrow banks start accepting deposits and utility payments at their own ATMs these kiosks will lose value).