Are Batswana in the Late Majority to the Internet Revolution?
We hear time and time again about the rise of Silicon Valley, this is the name given to the San Francisco bay area that houses a large proportion of the world’s tech companies such as Google, Apple and Hewlett Packard (HP). It is a technology hub where the chief export is innovation. This golden goose of the American economy has propelled the region and the whole state of California to be the 8th largest economy in the world, that’s one state of a country that is richer than most other countries in the world. This is primarily due to thinking out of the box and using the products to further make themselves more successful.
Now if this all sounds like a typical American success story let us look closer to home. Two African countries that have followed suit and embraced innovative tech are Kenya and Ghana. The Kenyan people and Government have embraced tech innovation so much that they have produced homegrown solutions that empower their people; a good example of this is world class mobile money sending App, Mpesa. Kenya exported $360 million in tech products in 2010 and inspired by such impressive growth the Kenyan Government is building Africa’s very own Silicon Valley, Konza Technology City, a 5,000-acre tech hub that’s 60 km away from the centre of Nairobi. Kenya’s tech innovation is vastly surpassing the traditional African stalwarts of commerce, South Africa and Egypt.
If the proof that embracing technology is in concrete, or rather silicon, then why are we Batswana still queuing in Banks when we can access our accounts via phone or computer? Why do we drive to Johannesburg to buy something we need when we can just order it online? We wait every week for the new advertiser to see what deals there are when you can beat everyone to the punch by checking the online version, yes they do have a website. I could carry on with examples until the cows come home…and if you want to know when that will be check out Botswana’s own farm management app, Modisar, who have a great product but are still battling to change the traditional farmers way of thinking to embrace innovation.
Thankfully the Botswana Government has been taking note of this lucrative phenomenon taking place in Kenya and has launched an ambitious plan to nurture innovative tech companies through First Steps Venture Centre or FSVC, a technology entrepreneurship development programme from the Botswana Innovation Hub.
The founder of MediaShack.co.bw, a company which is being incubated by FSVC, was asked whether he thought Batswana were ready to embrace digital marketing. “The answer is simple, Batswana are already using facebook proficiently, they are engaging, sharing and liking, so if you have a good message, presented in an engaging way , then there is a massive market that will listen, digital is cheaper, easier, faster and more versatile”, says Hamish Mclaggan.
The challenges that MediaShack.co.bw face the most is trying to convince marketing managers who are used to traditional media, to try something different, but it seems that they don’t want to be one of the first companies to try something new.
We have established that tech innovation is good, influential and definitely works, we also established that we have the tools to use it (mobile phones, computers, etc) we have the people making it happen, so the question is when are we going to dive in and start utilising what we have and ride the wave everyone else is? If you don’t know where to start pick up a copy of wired magazine or check it out online, see whats happening and what can work for you. Otherwise give the FSVC a call to see what’s happening in the innovation space of Botswana or if you have your own great tech idea maybe they can help you make it a reality.
Here is your first lesson to embracing tech innovation scan this QR code with your phone and see where it leads you.
Hamish Mclaggan – Founder of MediaShack.co.bw, MediaShack (Pty) Ltd is a client of Botswana Innovation Hub’s technology entrepreneurship development programme, First Steps Venture Centre (FSVC)