Jun 28, 2012

Pagasa website needs redesign

Above are screenshots of two government weather websites. The left one is our own Pagasa website http://www.pagasa.dost.gov.ph/. The right is Australia's Bureau of Meteorology http://www.bom.gov.au/.

The Pagasa website is cluttered and crammed -- no visible handles to find information. The climate information is written in technical language, unfriendly to the average reader, whom Pagasa should probably target in the first place.

To view Pagasa weather reports, you have to download details on PDF. Go ahead try a PDF report, like this one: http://www.pagasa.dost.gov.ph/wb/fcst/bulletin.pdf

If you're too lazy to download, I enclosed a screenshot for you. Here's the weather Pagasa report in all its ALL CAPs glory, good luck reading it:

Pagasa, please improve your website design. 

Dec 18, 2011

Organizing post-calamity chaos

After calamities like Ondoy and Sendong, we could now make out a pattern in the way we respond to disasters, particularly our online response through social media like Facebook and Twitter. It is not a good pattern. 

It is characterized by chaos and disorganization. Ironically, we've used online tools to coordinate other tasks both mundane (eg, organizing reunions through Facebook or egroups) and challenging (eg, coordinating protests and starting flash mobs). Somehow we keep missing to use these same tools more effectively for disasters.

I'm aware of several online projects in the past that are relevant to this issue, but it's safe to say that these aren't really doing much. Perhaps the problem is that these efforts always start after a calamity and are never sustained till the next disaster strikes. There is hardly any pre-calamity activity or plan or program and although the issue points clearly towards government or the lack of it in these times, I'd also put equal blame on us mere citizens for not pushing enough to get a response from our government and private leaders.  

There has to be a better way to orchestrate/coordinate relief efforts in our country. I hope this blog entry inspires many of us to start discussing this problem so that we begin more concrete actions.

Why orchestrate/coordinate our efforts?

Solving this problem will have great benefits: 
  1. Coordination will help reduce/eliminate wasteful, duplicated efforts.
  2. It will help us help better. If we knew what calamity victims really needed, we could maximize our donations by focusing on those real needs.  
  3. Because of the above benefits, we could respond more quickly, more efficiently and more effectively to help  calamity victims. 

The effort sounds daunting. Is there really a solution? 

The elements of the solution are already in our hands:
  1. We have people willing to give help (donate): money, relief goods, volunteer time, etc.
  2. We have people willing to deliver help: shipping companies, private individuals, foundations and NGOs.
  3. We have people willing to go out there and rescue people.
  4. We have social media and we are already using social media to do the first 2 elements.
  5. There are various online, open source, and free platforms like Sahana and even Google Docs/Maps to facilitate the orchestration.
Got any ideas? Please comment.

* * * Pahabol * * * 

In the rush to publish this, I forgot to add that in the elements of the solution, we lack an important category: people who view all the activities from a broader perspective and help orchestrate the efforts.

Mar 8, 2011

Discombobulated UnionBank

I had to deposit at UnionBank in Shaw, Pasig City today. I took my number (62 in the queue) and discovered that the teller was currently processing #52. Good I thought. Just 10 people before me. It was 12:00 pm. There was only one teller serving us. My number said "Single Transactions," meaning, this was their express lane.

By 12:20, I still wasn't served. The lone teller was only processing #53. More customers were arriving since this was lunch time.

Then a second teller arrived at 12:30. Good, I thought. The second teller started calling and processing 54, then 55. Then she stopped and started doing something else. She and the other teller even had the gall to engage in light banter with customer 54 who apparently they knew.

So now, both tellers were doing something else, in front of the queue of customers, oblivious. The manager appeared three times, only to get some papers from the tellers, also oblivious.

Customers beside me were sleeping, tolerant of what was happening. This is very Pinoy. But I hadn't eaten and I needed to be elsewhere and my process improvement skills were screaming in my head.

By 12: 50, I've had enough. I approached the manager and asked if they had no express lane and that I've waited for almost an hour. The manager, to her credit, apologized and gave an excuse that they were processing too many checks. I was going to retort, "I don't care about your checks, just process my deposit." But I stifled it since she offered me a solution. She said she'd just take my deposit, issue me a receipt and have it processed by today. I agreed and left.

Clearly, the management at this particular branch had no regard for its customers. Since it was lunch break, the disregard was all the more pronounced. I am sure many of the customers waiting in line had not eaten lunch.

Lessons for bank managers:

  • Observe the arrival of customers especially at peak hours like lunch and coffee break.
  • If a line gets longer than 3 people, then get the other tellers to help. (In fact, there were more tellers at the back, just chatting up people at New Accounts.)
  • Assign batch tasks (processing several transactions) to tellers hidden from the customer's view. It is atrocious to make tellers do these unrelated tasks right in front of the customers waiting in line. Probably, the tellers at New Accounts should have been assigned the batch tasks instead.
  • Focus on the customers and the flow of transactions. 
  • UnionBank in this branch had about 20 chairs occupying most of the space. If anything, this is a sign that your processing time for each customer is too long such that you have to provide seats for this number of customers!