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On the 9th day of August 2005, a patent number TZ/P/05/00092 being an Invention of Internet Based Academic Register Management Information System known as ZALONGWA was granted to Juma Hemed Lungo. The holder of this patent is now giving it back to the society under Free and Open Source Software license.
Zalongwa Technologies Limited (Certificate of Incorporation No.: 57002 and Tax Identification Number: 104-824-986) is a privately held company which delivers Software that leverages the invention of ZALONGWA. The ZALONGWA technology enables Educational Institutions to Manage Student Enrolment, Course Registration, Student Election, E-Learning, Student Hostel Management, Caution and Tuition Fees and Examination Databank online.
The context of developing countries in general and particularly the context of higher learning institutions in Tanzania required fresh invention of programming styles, ideas, and system logics uniquely applicable in contexts where there is very little knowledge of computerized information systems. The invention of this technology puts many ideas in place:
Student Registration Numbers:
This system generates student registration numbers which are distinct from one another and yet they do not saturate. Many higher learning institutions issues complicated and un-patterned student registration number. For example, P.38789/T.2003, Pre.47975/T.2004, 47976/T.2004, S.CS/05/0034, etc. These numbers have no fixed length (character values), they do saturate, flags students as Private or Pre-entry or Faculty X etc, cannot be validated by using a computer program because they have no fixed pattern and cannot be used for statistic values (e.g to tell how many private students).
Zalongwa Technology introduces student registration numbers which are Numeric numbers with two values: (1) index value and (2) year value; Restarting Index Value i.e. the index value of the registration number is restarted in each academic year in order to avoiding saturating numbers and the numbers are Random numbers i.e. the numbers are given in search a way that there is a wide gape between numbers in such a way that it becomes difficulties for one student to guess nearby registration numbers. Registration numbers of this system looks like 100032005, 100062005, 100092005, etc.
Creation of User Accounts and Password Retrieval Mechanism
In many online systems, any person can create an account. In addition to that, many online systems requires that a user must have an email address so that in the case a user forgets a password, the password or password hints can be sent to the email.
This technology operates in contexts where many users have no email address. The system requires all users to create personal accounts and that non-university community members should not be allowed to create accounts in the system. In order to fulfill these requirements, the system is designed in such a way that, all users must be pre-registered in the system. Thus, when a user creates account, the user must enter a correct registration number issued by the institution. Users are also validated by using their dates of births; to open up an account a user must enter a valid registration number and a birth date. A registration can be used once, thus if somebody open up an account using someone else registration number, the owner will never be able to open up an account. This results into administration to be informed since the one will be denied. After a user open up an account, a username and a password will be used to access the system.
Automatic feedback to system users
The system implements an automatic feedback to users. For example, when a student apply for a room online, when the application is saved in the database, the students gets automatic feedback and when the accommodation officers views room application, students get automatic feedback that, accommodation officer has seen their applications.
Examination Transcript Generations
Many higher learning institutions examination databanks are manual paper based files. In order to print student transcripts, they have to copy and retype examination results, student biodata, and course information for each candidate.
This technology implements a mechanism which allows examination officers to search student records and print transcripts using a student registration number. The system is unique in that, while many systems prints all records in the database that corresponds to the search key (in this case student number), with this system you can block some results and or you can display all results but excluding some results in processing final grades. Excluding some course results of a student is a common feature of higher learning institutions in developing countries, because there is no control on student course registration. As a result, a student registers too many courses hence many units than required. Thus, transcripts are created on best passed courses (subjects).
Publications of Examination Results
Many internet based systems which publishes examination results on the internet uses flat files which allow anybody to access students’ results. Some put PDF files without knowing that not everybody is using Acrobat Reader, especially in the Internet Cafés. This technology implement a challenging security and privacy control mechanism which allows only registered student to view their own examination results on the Internet. The results are printed on pure HTML files which can be accessed/opened by any Internet Browser.
Self Examination Registration
This system allows students to register for course examinations online. Examination officer may set course capacity which limits the number of students who can register on particular course. This allows evenly load distribution where a higher learning institution can control the number of students who can register in each course, especially elective/optional courses.
Handling of white spaces on database record keys
In most computer databases, white spaces are not allowed as database key values (table primary keys). However, in the context where this program is designed for, there are some cases when white spaced key values are required. For example, course code “LW 204”. This program handles white spaced key values in the same way it handles non-white space key values.
System and data backup mechanism
Because of limited ICT resources and infrastructures in developing countries in general and in Tanzanian higher learning institutions in particular, this program is designed in such a way that, the database system can be installed in one server, the front end application can be installed in another different server and the backup copies can be dumped into another different server. Those three servers can be placed in separated and widely geographical areas. The system comes with a backup scripts which creates automatic backups every midnight and it copies the database to another computer server.
Personalization of users
This system has six modules and in each module a user can have a manger or an operator privilege. The system personalize menus for each user to the extent that one user can not feel that there are some hidden privileges. In the case of University hierarchy, the system personalized menus for Students, Lecturers, Database Administrator, Departmental Examination officer, faculty examination officers and Examination Section of the institution. Also it accommodates Student Accommodation Officer.
The system stores statistics for each user operation. It stores the IP address and the Operating system and Internet Browser Program of the computer which was used to access the system. This feature may be used to confirm scientific researches such as which is the dominating operating systems, and which is the preferred Internet Browser program in Tanzania. This information also can be used to retrieve information when there is a need of tracking on which computer a user has accessed the system.
Data Extraction Transformation and Loading
While testing the program, we have extracted existing student records of the University of Dar es Salaam. In extracting old data, we found data in different computer files format and hardcopies. In order to extract data from Microsoft Words, old Microsoft Access databases, FileMaker Pro databases and Microsoft Excel. Special techniques and scripts were developed to assist the process of importing records.
Today, Zalongwa Technology has been used to build serious, strong, and uniquely software products like Webbased Payroll (Enterprise Resource Planning and Accounting Software), Insurance Agency Management Software, Hotel and Guesthouse Management Software, Teaching Timetable, etc.