As the world economy globalises Information and Communication Technologies solutions, companies need to position themselves to ensure that Zimbabweans are not excluded from this fast-moving and ever changing world of technology by providing solutions and systems that are relevant to perform tasks that meet current industry and social demands at a fair price.
By Vimbai Rupere
This is achieved while making certain that products and services are accessible to all users for their varying needs.
Partnerships with leading manufacturers and developers of technological platforms and solutions from both the West and the East has never been more of a necessity than now.
This is one area where indigenisation can only be more service delivery focused than production. Any production in this sector can be more on the interface aspect. Having said this, it is not to rule out innovative technology ideas that are locked up in our Zimbabwean developers.
World statistics indicate that the mobile phone is the clear winner over the desktop experience and has totally obscured the use of the personal computer on a worldwide scale. This was inevitable as Information Technology consumerisation has highly motivated smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices into the market place.
Mobile commerce has been deployed in Zimbabwe but full customer surveys don’t seem to have been taken into consideration.
While the critical aspects of pre-agent sign up inspections are used in giving a retailer “agent” status by some operators and banks for the hosting of Point Of Sale devices or housing of Automated Teller Machines, the socio-economic dynamics of some localities are completely ignored.
There are areas that don’t meet the criteria, but have booming financial transacting activities. On paper regulatory requirements of connectivity provision are excellent but not enforced, these requirements need to be extended to the financial services sector to ensure that economic growth is not by historically perceived viable economy environments but rather by the current informal sector trends.
The salaried worker may have a guarantee of income at the end of each traditional calendar month, but with much of that income not being disposable, at the same time the informal trader with no set guaranteed salary may actually have more disposable income.
You may have noticed the constant bringing up of customer service in previous articles, this is because the customer remains short-changed in the majority of the service industry in our nation. 24/7 support through a helpdesk, is still lacking. A handful of companies are providing round-the-clock support to a handful of clients.
Surveys have shown that in some of these companies, it is a junior staff member providing after hours’ support. The techies interviewed also indicate that most of the time they are sleeping, and half the time refer clients to call in the morning. Other support centres might as well have billboards in the centre of town that read “PLEASE MAKE SURE YOUR FAULTS OCCUR DURING NORMAL OFFICE HOURS, BECAUSE WE DON’T DO BUSINESS AT NIGHT!” It is not just about hearing a human voice at the other end of the line but rather getting “the fix” one needs when they need it.
These are some of the reasons why in some of our remote retail places, Point of sale devices are gathering dust under the shelf. Obviously the issue of connectivity remains at the top of the list as one of the barriers to successful utilisation and or roll out of mobile commerce deployment nationwide.
Zimbabwe’s decision-makers also remain jacket and tie guys. Absence of scientific management or evidence-based products and services roll out in the financial sector is part of the major reason why in some cases we have bank branches in areas where less than 10% of that local area are banked and will need banking services.
Mobile commerce is about volume, and volume in our environment means getting the suits with the “zvikabuduras” [shorts] in the same basket.
In the past few days, mobilecommercedaily.com reports that mobile deposits using smart- phones and tablets have exceeded US$40 billion mark, it is unlikely that the statistics include our country given our use of the smartphone (WhatsApp, email, camera, but hardly banking!).
It is rumoured that the next iPhone will have fingerprint sensors as well as Near Field Communication (NFC) ewallet facilities. Given the level of innovation in our local banking sector, I can see all our frequent traveller executives with this gadget within weeks of it hitting the market, but the marginal utility will not exceed that of my Nokia 1280.
Standards wise our financial industry is struggling to comply with the simple Basel banking laws, so bring it on Apple, we will buy the iPhone as a status symbol.
We have over the last few years seen several efforts by technology and financial firms to roll out and or market solutions that address some of the issues herein highlighted, but they all fall short of regional economic movement by both corporate and informal traders.
I cannot stress enough the importance of having an internet ready mobile device against capability to carry out real value transactions. Internet connectivity is a must for mobile commerce. We cannot afford to ignore mobile commerce trends like we did with ecommerce.
Despite the ecommerce boom a few years back, Zimbabwe is not really employing this technology. I suppose one might argue, rightly so as well, that the little mobile commerce that is currently employed in Zimbabwe also technically is ecommerce.
Why do we continue to have this gap in technology use to full potential? Is it because we have only a handful of business heavyweights calling the shots and sitting on too many boards and hardly becoming masters in technology use and its impact on the economy?