Assessing Clones for Apple

As a company, it is vital that we maintain our resolve against clone and spam apps. However, it is equally important to understand how our policy decision has impacted the app ecosystem at large. As you have been made aware of, unintended consequences have resulted in white-label applications that service government agencies and conferences being banned. Additionally, technologists assert that the policy hurts smaller app developing companies and small businesses that rely on less expensive, more generalized apps for customer reach.

To counteract the results, Apple as an organization has taken positive steps including:

  • In early 2018, it started waiving the $99 developer fee for all government and nonprofits. This is supposed to make the transition away from ‘white-label’ apps easier.
  • Smaller apps can still act as middlemen for smaller companies as long as the customized apps do not look similar.

While these updates have allowed for some greater clarification, the issue of clone and spam apps has not been solved. This memo will explore viable alternatives for Apple to pursue.

Alternative 1: Maintain current crack down on clone/spam apps while promoting a public communications strategy that app-creation tools whose business model does not rely on direct cloning should not be impacted.

+ While the policy can impact a few apps that the company might not be intentionally targeting, keeping it broad helps with enforcement.

+ Policy is already in place and there are companies that have abided by it without any major issues.

– This will lead to government agency apps needing to differentiate themselves or entirely centralize onto one app which becomes a major security concern.

– There is reputational risk associated with undertaking such a widely scrutinized move.

Alternative 2: Develop a secondary marketplace for potential clone/spam apps. Users can directly use the original Apple app store to search for apps that fully abide by the policies and a secondary app market for apps that do not abide by certain restrictions.

+ This will help make both the user experience and company regulation experience easier as the primary market will have the originals applications.

+ This segmentation gives consumers some choice around which app they prefer as opposed to completely banning the apps.

– Unfortunately, this alternative will result in market segmentation that can result in larger app companies or developers benefitting.

– Many of the government service apps that were banned will now be grouped in with many spam apps which can lead to other vulnerabilities being exposed for the consumer.

Alternative 3: Require two account titles for app submissions- the primary one indicating the owner and the secondary one indicating the app developer.

+ this move will help Apple and the consumer better understand who created the app in case there is similar code that is used in the company’s other applications.

+ Again, since the apps remain, the choice for using them is left up to the consumers. We as a company instead provide them with greater information.

– There will need to be an internal Apple regulatory body that makes sure that the account titles are being applied correctly.

– The proliferation of spam apps within the store would not be limited.

  1 2 3
Feasibility + +
Adoptability + +
Reputational cost +

Will banning social media curb violence in India

India has become home to numerous mob-killings based on the use of social media platforms such as WhatsApp and Facebook. This has led to people in civil society directly asking for the government to intervene and temporarily ban these platforms. While there is merit in limiting access to communication tools that do not directly filter information from disinformation, banning the social media would ultimately be a detriment in the government’s efforts to curb religious or caste-based violence.

It is important to note that India is not the first country that is dealing with the ramifications of unfiltered social media on its society. Overall, since the Arab Spring began in 2010, governments have carried out at least 400 shutdowns across more than 40 countries. Those include hundreds of short-term shutdowns in India, where they first emerged as a localized response to unrest in the northern region of Kashmir and subsequently spread to most other states. The rise in shutdowns is exhibited in the figure below.

However, two major questions still remain:

  1. Was the internet shutdown effective in quelling localized violence? If so, what best practices can be applied in this current context?
  2. Can specific social media platforms be banned as opposed to the internet as a whole?

In order to explore both questions, we also have to analyze the counterfactual: would mob killings exist without the platforms. The figure below highlights how the Indian government has explicitly targeted Muslim-majority northern Indian regions (with the largest focus being on the disputed region of Kashmir) for its internet shutdowns. Yet the shutdowns have resulted in limited success towards quelling violence.

The most violent rioting took place in Gujurat 2002 under the governance of PM Narendra Modi. The riots happened without major internet infrastructure in place and was fueled by community driven rumors and false accusations. If the country is actually interested in stopping violence against minorities, it has to fundamentally look at the platform of its ruling party as opposed to targeting platforms that many people use for vital communication.

“Ask Once” Programming in Pakistan

TO: Prime Minister of Pakistan

FROM: Aisha Iqbal, Chief Technology Advisor

SUBJECT: Potential for Federal Agency Integration

Summary: As the government of Pakistan hopes to modernize its current social services, one key proposal has been implementing an “ask once” policy for all federal departments/agencies. This memo seeks to analyze both the benefits of such a policy along with the potential challenges and risks associated with implementation and coordination. From there, an action decision will be recommended.

Benefits:

  • Improved user experience: Through this policy, Pakistani citizens and residents will be able to more seamlessly navigate through different agency services with a singular log-in protocol. Since the country already has computerized national identity cards, the sign-in can potentially be the individual’s unique id.
  • Convenience for different stakeholders: From a user perspective, only needed to know one password or having to go through one log-in window expedites the process. From a government perspective, it becomes easier to track agency use by individuals since each log-in will be tracked through an immutable record. Additionally, this would streamline services resulting in agency savings around duplicate services.
  • Accessibility across country: Pakistan not only has a population spread across mountainous regions; it suffers from high illiteracy rates. An “ask once” policy will make it easier for individuals with limited access to technology to quickly access needed forms and services. Similarly, this policy will enable those with limited Urdu and English comprehension skills to memorize a single password and still have sufficient access.  

Challenges:

  • Buy-in from minority communities: In order to make this policy and process seamless, the government has to have a high enough participation rate as possible. For this, there needs to be an added security and data privacy element associated with the program for religious and minority groups who have been previously persecuted in the country and have rightful suspicion. There needs to be some form of encryption associated with individual public/private keys so that specific identifying characteristics cannot be highlighted.
  • Buy-in from government agencies: Additionally, in order to maximize effectiveness, as many agencies as possible have to join into this system. There needs to be a data separation assurance provided as some may not want to directly share individual information with another (ex: ministry of immigration vs ministry of health).
  • Maintaining privacy with limited resources: This will be a costly short-term endeavor with long-term saving potential. In order for those cost savings to materialize, it is imperative that the government invests in continued system maintenance in order to minimize risk.

Risks:

  • Centralized attack: Pakistan is home to numerous domestic and international threats. With a centralized data collection system, the government is making itself susceptible to potential security mishaps unless there is a strong architecture supporting this program.

Decision:

  • The government of Pakistan should take action towards an “ask once” policy due to the ease of access it would provide the Pakistani residents. In order to ensure there are limited data privacy concerns, there should be a concerted financial and bureaucratic effort to maintain the program in accordance with international privacy standards.   

Reworking HKS’s Course Information

As the head of Student Services at the Harvard Kennedy School, my main responsibility is making sure students have the correct physical and digital resources while at the school. Presently, one of the key areas for important in our digital services is in the way courses are listed on My.Harvard. In terms of user-experience, students are unable to see:

  • Whether a specific course counts towards a graduation requirement
  • Whether the course counts towards a concentration requirement
  •  The professor and course ratings
  • If there are enrollment restrictions
  • If the course has ever been listed under a different course name/number

To help visualize this issue, I will take on the user persona of a second year MPP student at the Kennedy School. As part of her program, she has decided to declare a concentration in ‘international and global affairs’ resulting in her needing 28 class credits that fulfill that requirement. She has an interest in digital innovation within foreign policy and would like to explore that through Professor Eaves’ ‘Digital Government’ class. However, she is concerned that the course might not count for her IGA requirements for graduation. Additionally, she has heard positive things about the course but coming from a quantitative background, would like to see the previous year’s evaluation report.

She first goes to My.Harvard to look up the course ‘Digital Government.” There she finds the description, day and time it is held, and a link for additional information around the digital HKS program.

However, the key questions she has around graduation requirements are not presented in the course description. Additionally, in the grades section on My.Harvard, there is no indication around how this course counts towards her graduation or concentration requirements.

For that information, she then has to go to HKS’s KNET and search through the different links to verify if this class will even count. That would mean clicking on degree programs & student affairs > PACs and Concentrations > IGA > Concentration requirements.

From the concentration requirements webpage, she would then have to click on the AY20 fact sheet to access the classes that qualify for IGA elective credit.

Once she is on page 16 of the document (out of 27 pages), she is then able to see that DPI-662 ‘Digital Government’ does in fact count for her graduation requirement.

From the user perspective, there are several issues with this process for verifying if the course counts or not.

  1. This only verifies if the course counts for the IGA concentration but does not show how it fits with graduation requirements.
  2. It requires the user to use multiple Harvard websites (My.Harvard and KNET) when that information could be consolidated into one.
  3. The user will still need to go and find professor and course evaluations from a separate site.

You can compare the HKS experience to one that the user had while in undergrad. For her college, all courses had information about concentration and graduation requirements, restrictions, and if the course was ever offered before under a different name. For some courses, the user could also find the previous year’s evaluation link as well. For students who are choosing between several classes, having this information presented succinctly up front is critical as some will unknowingly drop a class that was of interest and fit key requirements.

Reducing Boston’s Traffic through an Agile Framework

As we are all aware, the vehicle traffic situation in Boston is getting progressively worse. One of the solutions that has been introduced has been a number-plate reading technology resulting in a localized road pricing to the tune of multi-hundred million dollars. As a city already cash strapped around infrastructure projects, implementing a system that would be so costly could potentially be disastrous. Instead, I propose working in conjunction with the different modes of transportation already present in Boston to slowly reduce the number of cars overall on the road. This would be done through a multi-phase operation with a dual focus on encouraging ride sharing and the use of Boston’s already present public transportation system. In order to effectively test this project, I propose an agile framework with slow build-ups in city areas, resulting in a test that would be significantly lower priced that the current solution.

Ride-sharing has already become an integral part of the transportation model within Boston. App-based ride-hailing allows Uber drivers to pick up riders with much greater frequency, by more efficient matching of customers with routes. The precision and flexibility of smartphone-based ride hailing can bring drivers right to customer origins and take customers precisely to their destinations. This unprecedented pick-up and drop-off flexibility lead to a reduction in time the driver spends in an empty vehicle. The pillars of the sharing economy—excess capacityurbanism, and smartphones—enable a much greater utilization rate and thus a much denser pairing of supply and demand.

In order to further test whether or not increasing ride-share would be effective, I would recommend using the four different performance models created by the U.S. Department of Transportation Office of Planning, Environment, and Realty Federal Highway Administration.

The four models would be:

  1. Lighthouse Model: Leadership from an individual or agency to formulate an approach to integrating shared mobility which inspires others to follow a similar path
  2. Strategic Model: Focusing first on a high-level strategic vision intended to drive more specific planning efforts later
  3. Operational Partnership Model: Engaging with shared mobility companies to experiment and pilot innovative approaches to working together to address regional goals
  4. Watch and Learn Model: Focusing on research and thought leadership while seeking more information about how to incorporate shared mobility into planning processes

Ride-sharing cannot alone reduce the traffic issues found within Boston. Utilizing the potential within the MBTA will be critical. The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) service area is comprised of a 4.9 million people covering over 3,200 square miles in 175 cities and towns.  In addition to rail, subway, electric street cars, trackless trolleys, buses, and harbor ferries, the MBTA also provided nearly 7,000 paratransit trips for older adults and people living with disabilities in 2014. The transportation system has been important in addressing the needs of lower-income workers, seniors, and people living with disabilities.

In order to allow for testing, I would segment off different sections of the city and fund public awareness and persuasion campaigns. Agile frameworks seek an iterative process towards each project, which I would base on each local community roll out. Once there is success based on traffic metrics, I would push to roll out the project to another community.