SA challenges? SA developers have a (global) app for that
Challenges come standard in SA, which is why local app developers are prepared to pivot in a moment, writes Shaun Richards
In a recent interview between Alan Knott-Craig and Alec Hogg, the former captured the SA ethos in one smooth sentence: “SA has that magic intersection between infrastructure and opportunity.” The market has long thought itself less than its international counterparts, held back by economic and political transgressions and limited by infrastructure and opportunity. Today, these challenges are the reason the local app development community is thriving, making marks on the international landscape and refining how South Africans engage with business, brand and technology.
What makes SA app development unique is that challenges come standard. App development has to consider a variety of issues that don’t necessarily influence international markets. The startling shifts in equality alone should dictate that an app straddle a variety of universes and capabilities to ensure it has any legs in the broader market. This is being further driven by more and more people accessing the internet and gaining access to mobile devices.
This means the market is constantly evolving and changing as demands evolve and change and this means that the SA developer is more aware of trends and prepared to pivot.
The reality is that, to be effective, software has to be developed for the right problem. Take an app that can handle some of the issues that straddle the local landscape and you have an app that can very likely succeed globally. The limitations that impact on success can be the very vectors that drive it. This is also one of the reasons why local talent is just that — talent.
Local developers are expected to manage a myriad of issues from the outset. Not that this isn’t a global challenge, of course, but it is one that can be somewhat magnified when there is load-shedding or zero infrastructure for connectivity.
What is being built for the African landscape is not just software applications but solutions, solutions that are committed to overcoming health, financial inclusion, education, accessibility, transport and more. SA entrepreneur Riaz Moola developed Hyperion, a code-centric online platform that now has a presence in more than 72 countries. It was developed to overcome the local challenge of limited access to programming education tools.
GO1, a training course developed by two South Africans, has been listed as one of the most disruptive companies in the world and on the Deloitte Technology Fast 500. It was developed to solve the problem of training and staff investment.
These are just some of the local names that have taken a problem and turned it into a solution. They are also a drop in the development ocean. Across Africa, developers are coming up with solutions that redefine how people engage with their lives and their futures. They are shifting the goalposts of what can be done across a variety of sectors, especially in the financial and gaming sectors.
SA remains a strong contender in the war for talented developers who can provide global brands with competitive solutions that can be tailored for different markets.
• Richards is the CEO of Platform45.