Dokora in e-piracy storm
Tendai Rupapa Senior Court Reporter—
A Harare company, Purple Divine Technology, has given the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education a 24-hour ultimatum to stop the electronic Ministry Application Platform (e-map), accusing the ministry of stealing its concept. Through its lawyers Warara and Associates, the firm has written to the ministry threatening legal action if it refuses to stop the process.
The date stamp on the letter shows that the ministry was served with the letter on Tuesday morning. After presenting its idea to Dr Lazarus Dokora in 2014, Purple Divine Technology claimed that the minister agreed to use the software as a pilot project in October 2016 before rolling it to all schools.
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“Our client is a software developer who came up with a school enrolment software system called Purple. “He approached your ministry in 2014 selling the idea and he was asked to present his business concepts,” the company’s lawyer Mr Charles Warara said.
“Your Minister took up the idea to the Cabinet and presented it. Our client was in constant communication with your IT department and your minister who appeared to co-operate. “After several presentations it was resolved at the end of October 2016 that the software will be used in the test run at any five schools in Harare after which, if it succeeds, the software would be rolled out nationally.”
He added that according to their agreement, the software was to be used after consultations with parents and guardians of the pupils.
“It was agreed that in 2017, the software will be advertised and introduced in all schools once parents had accepted the programme. Without any warning or informing our client, your minister came out and authorised the use of the idea and the software,” he said.
According to the letter, the ministry is now claiming to have developed the software. “On being approached your ministry now claims that you are not using our client’s software. It claims it developed this software on its own. What is clear is that the software team in your ministry are not even aware of how this new software was developed hence it is clear that the idea and software was stolen from our client,” read part of the letter.
The company advised the ministry that if it does not co-operate, they would institute legal proceedings against them. “Our instructions are to demand as we hereby do, that within 24 hours of receipt of this letter, you make an official announcement to cease the use of this stolen idea and software which belong to our client.
“Should you ignore this letter, we have instructions to seek a High Court order directing your ministry to stop the use of our client’s software to its detriment,” he said. However, the system is proving problematic with parents saying they were having difficulties in using the platform as it was frequently down.
Contacted for comment the Ministry’s spokesperson Mr Patrick Zumbo, said he was not aware of the letter hence could not give detail while the ministry’s Permanent Secretary Dr Sylivia Utete-Masango scoffed at the Purple Divine Technology’s claims.
“Honestly, how do you steal a software, kana ndiwewo,” she said before telling this reporter to phone again after five minutes. Efforts to contact her later were fruitless as she was said to be in a meeting. However, The Herald is reliably informed that there is documentary evidence to show that there were consultations made between the company and the ministry.