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More details of Ministry of Education’s alleged theft of online enrolment system emerge

Recently we learnt of allegations that the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education’s online enrolment system for Form 1 boarding school applicants was stolen from a local development outfit.

Information regarding the theft of this software was first shared on live radio when the Minister of Education Dr Lazarus Dokora was asked to respond to the allegations. More details on the allegations have since emerged.

According to an article in the Herald, the Ministry of Education was served with a letter from a development outfit called Purple Divine Technology to cease using the system on the 13th of December 2016 threatening legal action if the Ministry refused to comply.

Purple Divine Technology alleges that it approached the Ministry of Education with the idea for the system in 2014 and was in constant communication with the Dokoara and representatives from the Ministry’s IT department.

During that time Dokora took the idea to the Cabinet and the eventual resolution was that the Ministry would be a test run at five schools in Harare which would be followed by a national rollout. There was also supposed to be a stage for consultation with parents and guardians.

The system was supposed to be rolled out in 2017 following approval from the parents and guardians.

Another case of “My stolen tech idea!” or the Ministry took advantage?

So far the Ministry has denied the allegations. Officials from the Ministry of Education, including Dokora, have in one way or the other dismissed the allegations.

The system is also up and running. The deadline for online applications was even extended and parents and guardians have been relying on it for confirmations for securing places at various schools around the country.

It looks like the Ministry feels that it isn’t in a legally grey area and that it did develop the system on its own. This will likely depend on issues of established ownership of the source code. However, there are some aspects of the Purple Divine Technology case that are hard to dismiss straight away.

The rushed manner of the launch of eMAP (no pilot run, key stakeholders weren’t roped in) along with the paucity of development talent at the Ministry of Education which claims to have developed this on its own (has it developed any other solution?) make it hard to consider this as just another case of an idea theft rant.

There’s also the fact that Purple Divine Technology which is making claims of extensive communication with the Ministry plus the exchange of the source code should have evidence to back all this up.

For now, though, the case is only just starting and there will be more information shared as it develops.

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9 thoughts on “More details of Ministry of Education’s alleged theft of online enrolment system emerge

  1. Purple Divine made an error in rushing to the press. They should have given dialogue a chance. In addition Purple Divine must not react as if themselves they developed the application without stealing a single line of code, if we are to see Purple Divine computers its most likely that they are running on illegal pirated softwares, and have hoardes of other illegal acquired softwares including music and videos that is on their machine and therefore they must not behave like a saint. Anywhere I think stealing from each ideas in the tech ecosystem is very very good. The more people steal from each other then the more startups we will get and if those startups steal from each other again we will get more startups and if we have many more startups the quality of services tend to improve.

    1. Saying, “Anywhere I think stealing from each ideas in the tech ecosystem is very very good” is the most stupid thing I have heard in years.

      I bet my last bond coin Arnold mwana waDokora wemsango chete

  2. Nigel, you are stretching the truth there to say that there was exchange of source code! There can be exchange of software, but with NO source code involved.

    The choice of lawyers Purple Divine used is just going to suck them dry. Can Warara and Associates read a line of code, let alone compare the two to see if there was any stolen property?

    If Purple Divine thinks you can just approach any legal lawyers in this kind of case who will write big words threatening letters and hope the case will be settled, they are in for a surprise.

    Cases like this take a lot of time to prepare, they need people or lawyers who are tech literate in that area. Its good for Warara because every letter he writes, he gets paid even if he doesnt know what he is doing.

    1. MacD, that system was developed using PHP, so yes, if you exchange software, you exchange source code as well!

      1. Thanks for that, they should have known better then! Hopefully they didnt copy the code from somewhere and adapt!

  3. I think the legal ground for Purple Divine might be thin unless the code used by the Ministry is theirs as they claim. As you know, online registration is pretty much in the public domain, unless there is a pretty nifty algorithm they used (and patented as well, and here they could win even if the code is not theirs). That said, and in a nascent tech eco-system like ours, where the government is also pushing for citizen empowerment and reversal of corruption, the Ministry has very little moral ground to stand on. There a lot of things that go on in tech that Governments that are keen to develop local tech capacity should be strictly forbidden. However, since the Ministry of ICT also showed absolute disrespect for local young techies by running a quasi-Tech Show/Pitch where winning teams startups don’t seem to have been given meaningful prize money, somthing like USD 10 000 in our depressed economy, then all Ministries, including the one for education feel no pressure to play games by the moral rules.

  4. Lack of cohesion in cabinet, you have one minister champion tech innovation and another ministry stealing ideas.The least there could have done was to write to purple divine indicating to them which directioj there were taking. To purple divine ideas don’t run out, have a vision and purpose and one day you win.

  5. Nxanxanxa Unless Purple devine wants to make money out of a lawsuit. If its their system, why go through the hustle of legal actions. Just hack the system and get it offline

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