Imagine, if all you had was less than 5mins to retrieve your damaged SIM so that you would be active to receive an already scheduled business call from one of your potential clients, who have presented you with the biggest deal of your life — What will you do?
Sadly, this is the fate of about 148 Million active GSM Mobile Network Subscribers in Nigeria (Statistics quoted from NCC website as recorded from April 2017 — July 2020). This is a whopping 74% of the total population of the country (currently estimated to be 200 Million by worldometer as of when this research was conducted). How comforting to know one isn’t in this mess alone!
The current provision by the Mobile Network Operators in Nigeria (MTN, Airtel, Glo, 9Mobile, etc.,) only grants you easy retrieval, if you have the SIM pack that bears the eight-digit Personal Unblocking Key (PUK code, as it’s commonly called) of the lost/damaged SIM or an affidavit signed by a local court to verify ownership of the misplaced SIM amongst minimal alternate requirements.
In April 2010, SIM registration was introduced in Nigeria to verify the authenticity of Mobile Network Subscribers. Before this, Mobile Network Subscribers who lost, misplaced, or damaged their SIM could retrieve it if they wanted. Interestingly, the user gets to maintain their phone number after the retrieval process. This social norm has been knitted into our way of life; if faced with this, one has minimal options.
Furthermore, after the introduction of SIM registration, Nigerians witnessed the rise of roadside vendors who deem the process profitable merchandise. After several interviews conducted in the course of putting up this article, some Nigerians were candid enough to share their ordeal and how these vendors indulge in data theft and other fraudulent activities by feasting on Mobile Network Subscribers’ eagerness to get their SIM registered or retrieved immediately. These activities have led to harassment, extortion, kidnapping, etc.
A team of User Experience Researchers and Interaction Designers recruited several Nigerians for a research interview. These researchers evaluated subscribers’ pain points and possible solutions to the challenges they faced. They decided to leverage a policy the Federal Government of Nigeria made at the beginning of the year 2021 — which states that all citizens must register and link their NIN to their SIM. This exercise, as reported on the NIMC website shows that a total of 56.18 million NINs Have been collected by mobile network operators. 3–4 SIMs are the maximum any user can link to a NIN. This implies that the current figure accounts for a significant portion of the existing SIMs (NIMC updates on NIN-SIM integration).
The team came up with two possible solutions called Simple a portmanteau, SIM — PLE ( SIM and People).
The First solution enables Subscribers to conduct their SIM registration/retrieval on their own without a compulsory visit to their Mobile Operators’ Office. SIM subscribers will have to visit the SIMPLE app with a conversational user interface AI-powered chatbot that simplifies usability even for one with the lowest level of educational exposure.
Below are a few screens displaying the conversational user interface AI-powered chatbot.
Below is a Landing page — where users can easily initiate their SIM registration or retrieval process.
The Second solution adopts the technology used in the design of an ATM to work on something similar to an ATM but dispenses SIM cards.
The first solution will require subscribers to purchase a welcome-back pack in the case of SIM retrieval the second dispenses the SIM to subscribers at the booth. Both pull data from the subscriber’s NIN and verify the data with either an OTP, fingerprint, or facial recognition so access can be granted to the subscriber.
This research was conducted after the COVID-19 lockdown, Nigerians who had issues with their SIM in the course of the stay-at-home declared by the Government couldn’t wait to get their SIM back and this resulted in crowds at some of the network providers’ offices as seen in the photo above.
Impact of this Case Study
Though this hasn’t been implemented yet. But we got a lot of positive feedback in the course of our usability test with our prototype. We believe that this will save users’ time, improve data privacy and also increase revenue for the service providers in Nigeria as more people will get as many sims as they want or immediately retrieve if they get to misplace one because the process is seamless.
I played the role of a UX Researcher and Product Designer on this project and I learned a lot and was also intrigued by some of the insights I got from the data acquired in the course of this project. I learned a lot about the Nigerian telecommunication industry and how different it was from what was obtainable in other countries.
I had to make lots of research on ergonomics in UX design before sketching the SIM kiosk. I didn’t know before now, how ergonomics could influence user experience. But I do now, especially when designing a non-digital product for an audience that cuts across people with one form of physical disability or the other (Designing for accessibility and inclusion).
I also learned a lot about branding and story-telling.
You can check out the case study on Behance
I hope you enjoyed reading this, please do not hesitate to email me your feedback on this case study or on a project you would love me to work on.