Websites vs Apps: The Kenyan Mistake (and a proposed solution)
If you took some time to study the African tech scene, particularly in Kenya, you would notice a slight problem. (Then again it could be just me but indulge me).
Tech is booming in Africa, that’s a fact no one can challenge and moreover, growth is a good thing. Uneven growth is a not so good a thing and to be quite honest, I believe we have already embraced it.
I could be wrong but the way I see it, most “techies” in the Nairobi tech scene seem to be “into” web development mainly using the PHP language…and believe me there’s nothing wrong with that UNTIL that becomes the predominantly growing sector in the industry.
The risk here is that other sectors of the tech industry may suffer due to lack of innovation or mere interest! Sectors such as robotics, networking and even Business I.T.
If the trend continues, what we’ll be seeing is a bunch of irrelevant tech solutions such as myriads of websites and web services which cannot be accessed by the majority of internet users seeing as 75% of Kenyans primarily access the internet from their mobile phone!
Most of what we are seeing right now on the African tech scene are websites and web services. Of course there are a couple of apps here and there but then again with varying mobile platforms and standards its hard and costly to reach the masses using apps.
The websites vs. apps battle really isn’t a “playable” battle in the African tech scene. My reason for saying this is that the parameters are quite different from those of the developed world. Parameters such as access to technology, usage trends and can go as wide as development issues.
I have an idea for a solution: Why don’t we focus more on creating a standard platform on which developers can build locally relevant services and/or apps? The platform should take into consideration how the greater African population relates and uses technology and its potential impact on the African people?
For example, I believe USSD and Voice Apps are a suitable platform for the African market although they may be limited in functionality. In the west, the common platform is a mobile phone operating system. I perceive most of the western people as having access to devices such as the iPhone, Android phones, BlackBerry’s and Windows Mobile all of which have a vast number of dedicated applications and even mobile sites customized for each. Perhaps if we could do the same in Africa, with locally relevant tech solutions, we could achieve a great deal of technological growth in all sectors.
Technology development and innovation are not about showcasing skills but rather about problem solving. This is another mistake we are making in the tech sector. I personally know a good number of people who are extremely good at programming but they lack the necessary knowledge of problem solving (which, as I have learnt from my university education, is a fundamental principle in software engineering).