One of the biggest and most complex projects Safaricom has ever embarked on, was the moving of M-Pesa servers from Germany to Kenya. The process that lasted between 11 p.m. on Friday April 17 and 11.30 a.m. on April 19 after years of careful planning.
At 11 p.m. on April 18 in the “War Room”, before all M-Pesa services were shut down a moment of silence was held. A team of 320 people took the colossal task led by 33-year-old Ms Emma Nyambura. Having been on her feet for about 21 hours along with senior engineers like head of product and services development Ken Okwero.
In a picture that complemented Mr Collymore’s tweet, Ms Emma Nyambura Gichonge wearing a white T-shirt inscribed the words: “S.W.A.T team: We don’t meet standards. We set them.”, concentrates on something as engineers’ type away energetically on their keyboards. “Emma Gichonge was the Project Manager in charge. Not available for poaching! #MPESAImewasili,” wrote Mr Collymore.
Ms Nyambura was having a time of her life in a room christened “The Cut-Over War Room”. The migration process codenamed “Operation Mwamba”, had been planned like a military operation, with an exit plan devised in case of failure.
During the time when M-Pesa services were down, the “war room” was amass of activity migrating a host of more than 18 million users who transact about Sh3 billion MPESA transactions daily.
The new MPESA system has the ability to process 900 transactions per second, up from the previous 320 and the ability to return messages in three seconds compared to the previous 10. M-Pesa now runs on second generation software made in China by Huawei, scrapping the first generation that had been designed by technology giant IBM.
The switch-back moment was an emotional one for Safaricom’s top brass. According to Safaricom’s head of corporate and communications department, Marie-Anne Kui Kinyanjui, Mr Collymore almost shed tears of joy when the service was restored as others exclaimed in delight.
“And we’re live again on M-Pesa. One of the biggest IT projects carried out in Africa. Thanks to our customers for your patience,” Mr Collymore tweeted at exactly noon.
Ms Nyambura was glad that a project she had been co-ordinating since January 2013 had reached a successful finish.