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5 tech initiatives we would love to see in Zimbabwe in 2013

Zimbabwe Government Website

Zimbabwe 1.       Establishment  of an Open Data Portal

Zimbabwe. Government. City council. Public records. Transparency.

It’s not even possible to use those words in the same sentence. Perhaps an Open Data initiative could change that.

Open data is the idea that certain data should be freely available to everyone to use and republish as they wish, without restrictions from copyright, patents or other mechanisms of control.

Open Data when used in government will move towards making government data publicly available, and to encourage its reuse. Open data would enable accountability: it is difficult to conceal something if the facts are there for all to see. Not only will it result in transparency, just Data alone in the right hands is a powerful resource for our national economic and social development. It’s also an incredible opportunity for local talent to build locally relevant tech solutions, a very huge gap currently.

Leaving it unused is like building then leaving a rich resource idle.

Open data empowers communities: the truth about crime rates, educational achievement, social services, city council spending and so on is laid bare and technical people can make the data more meaningful by revealing the trends, direction, results of strategy & decision etc… Going forward, the data will lead to more accurate conclusions and more informed decisions being made by leaders in the various sectors of our economy.

We hope a portal could be created similar to these.

2.       EcoCash getting smart

The money transfer service EcoCash introduced in late 2011 has been going from strength to strength since its inception. The service had a great year in 2012, accumulating users at breathtaking fast pace. Although it uses the ever so cumbersome USSD service for transactions, users are plagued with session timeouts, having to go through numerous menus and sub menus to make simple transactions.  In its current state it contains simple security vulnerability, in the form of shoulder hacking, someone standing near an EcoCash user as they enter their pin code can see the plain text code.

Perhaps 2013 could be the year that Econet creates smartphone apps for the service, with better user interface, better security and better transaction history management. They could also introduce a web gateway to access ones account and financial records.

3.       Multi Carrier IMEI database for stolen smartphones.

Mobile Phone users are rapidly increasing across the country, and so are the cases of stolen cellphones. The development of a shared IMEI database would help deter the number of cellphone thefts.

Such a database would prevent stolen phones (once reported) from being used on another network, thereby rendering stolen phones worthless.

We will hold our breaths on that one, history dictates that it’s hard getting telcos in Zimbabwe to work together.

4.       Growth in E-commerce

Oh please, let 2013 be the year eCommerce finally takes off in and we finally get to purchase goods and services online.

I’m excited about the idea of dial-a-delivery using EcoCash, even though I haven’t used it. Those are the kind of innovation we wish to see in 2013. Currently there are maybe a few companies that are truly suited to implement amazing online marketplaces; Econet and are amongst them.

Econet has everything going for it, it’s only limited by its imagination as to the extent they could take an online marketplace if they chose to undertake the project.

Classifieds already has the biggest online advertising platform in the country, and they only have to tap into that market and voila, a truly successful business emerges.

Zimazon is better positioned than the aforementioned companies, they have been in the industry for a long time, and have learned some valuable lessons. The only problem might be financing, we wait and see maybe this year the business will truly go mainstream.

5.       Better designed Websites and less Joomla

The current crops of Zimbabwean websites leave a lot to be desired. Some of our websites are okay, but most are truly atrocious. The worst culprits being the government portal websites e.g.

Zimbabwe Government Website

As more companies and individuals get on the web, we hope web developers create and design better looking and better functioning websites. 2012 will be remembered for many things, and one of these is going to be: “the year that the Zimbabwe Achievers Awards awarded the best website prize for given to a site that wasn’t even online.”

We hope that in 2013, development companies realize that Joomla is not a panacea for website development. It is certainly not the only CMS out there for Pete’s sake. Try Drupal, WordPress or develop in-house CMS’s depending on the project requirements of course. If you do wish to stick with Joomla, please secure it properly and use/design better looking templates.

Honestly people, this is 2013, the 21st century, and here we are still looking at sites that look like they travelled from back in time when the web was first developed. The best way to describe some of our local sites is visual diarrhea. The most basic usability and user experience rules of web design and development have been ignored and I think it’s time we fix that in 2013.

With the rise and proliferation of smartphones, and tablets, I feel all sites should be optimized to be viewed on as many screens/viewports as possible. Most Zimbabweans’ first interaction with the web is through their smartphones and therefore developers and designers should take in this into consideration and develop sites that cater for these small screens and deliver desktop comparable browsing experience too.

The fact that not all local websites are garbage – we DO have some brilliantly designed sites by local design agencies – leads me to believe that the government, companies, and businesses generally do not appreciate and take seriously the importance of their sites. Please hire professional and capable designers/developers and let’s drag our websites out of the dark ages.

Quick NetOne, Econet, And Telecel Airtime Recharge

49 thoughts on “5 tech initiatives we would love to see in Zimbabwe in 2013

  1. Very shallow to suggest one application over the other. Its like saying Windows is better than Linux. Or iOS than Android. Or this LInux distro is better than that.

    Your article@Tendai Marengeke just got soiled by that flame bait.

    Will treat as flame bait all articles(like this one) that naively blame a product(like Joomla) for developer incompetency or through very limited knowledge of the said product

    1. I beg to differ, Windows is better than Linux for certain things, in the same way that Joomla is better than WordPress for certain tasks, the inverse is also true, Do you not agree?

      I am merely pointing out the fact that people should choose the right tools, for the right job.

      I am surprised that from, point 5, all you could take out was the comment on CMSes.

      I did not at any point claim that Joomla is not a good CMS. What i meant is that Joomla is not the only CMS, Sometimes it is a bit of an overkill.

      1. It is flame bait because it is opinionated and always ignites debate. Unless you intentionally want to perpetuate such a debate or intentionally want to stimulate it, I discourage you from making such statements because people are highly opinionated over it.

        Personally, I think I have written articles(as comments) within articles from the time I started coming here, and have frankly given up on direct comment on such declarations as you have made in your article. I will now try keep my opinion out and flag flame bait when I see it. It will always divert discussion and always result in flame wars. Unless you state real shortfalls and exact technical reasons, its just pure opinion(technical analyses would certainly be refreshing)

        The unfortunate part is that this is a Tech site that also has a following of implementers/developers (prospective, hobbyist, upcoming & seasoned) who can be misled(especially those learning). There is some level of responsibility & well-researched content expected from you.

  2. Very shallow, i agree, we had this discussion of CMSs a few days ago, and maybe you just decide not to read it, why try Worpress over joomla? You should be arguing over functionality of the sites, not the tools used, design or development should be the question?

      1. Try Drupal,WordPress or …

        I was going to stay out of this but I think the onus is on the author to state why poeple should do things differently, we are left guessing (and I’m guessing the author just dislikes Joomla). Why do you think X is a knife and Y is a chainsaw? That is left unstated in the article. Obviously there are architectural & philosophical differences, but there are practically no functional differences between CMSes: what you can do with one, you can do with any another.

        If you do wish to stick with Joomla, please secure it properly

        Am I imagining the insinuation in this statement? Not sure why Joomla should be singled out to be ‘secured properly’, I think the same goes for WordPress, Drupal, XOOM or whatever your favourite CMS is..

        develop in-house CMS’s depending on the project requirements of course.

        Please, please, please don’t develop a CMS in-house, unless your needs are ridiculously specific and can’t be met by other CMSes – the emphasis on requirements is important. You’re better off using an off-the-shelf CMS and invest your time developing plugins to meet your specific needs. Developing a CMS is a good learning excercise, just don’t put it into production. Chances are your custom CMS is less secure than WordPress, Drupal, and even the perpetual scapegoat, Joomla.

        1. I think the best uses for the 3 CMSes i mentioned are as follows;
          WordPress – blogging platform & simple websites
          Joomla – small scale to medium websites
          Drupal – Large scale web projects, it’s much better at handling complex data.

          Sure you could make a large complex social network using WordPress but that would be tremendously complicated, whereas that same task could be shortened if one were to use Drupal. I hope you catch my drift.

          Insinuation – not at all; it is the widely used CMS in Zimbabwe, . Therefore Joomla sites have a higher to get hacked, if devs/ rather template pushers forget to secure it thoroughly.

          Perhaps i misrepresented my case in the article.

          1. I do get your drift, and for the record, my gut agrees with the relative strengths you listed for the different CMSes, but gut-feeling is not the same as cold, hard, benchmarking results.

            I think the best uses…

            Additionally, I feel you should have been clearer in the article that this is your opinion (i.e. it’s more of an editorial that technical article). Citations would have been nice.

            For what it’s worth, I’m not a Joomla partisan: I left the world of PHP and have this love/hate thing for it (<flame> IMHO, the only thing uniting these CMSes is the general incompetence of PHP ‘programmers’ </flame>). Like you, I would like people to have an open mind when choosing the right tool for the job, and the first thing they need to do is get first-hand information, instead of 2nd hand misinformation from blog comments.

            It takes an investment of time to learn the ins/outs of a new CMS, so people end up focussing on one and getting invested in it. Advice to devs: don’t look at any with a jaundiced eye

    1. I’m sorry, help me understand what u are saying. You are saying devs shouldn’t try other CMSs because why exactly? Why NOT try WordPress over Joomla? Why NOT try Drupal over Joomla? Why NOT try other development frameworks over Joomla?

      How about finding out the best tool for the job? Like the @twitter-33293810:disqus wrote in his article, ” Joomla is not a panacea for website development.” I do not think he’s attacking Joomla per se, only to say that one should not use for each and every web development project there is. Which makes sense to me, personally anyway.

  3. How about we (the techies) “regroup” and design and develop the eCommerce payment platforms we want to see. Lets hallucinate a bit and imagine 35 people coming together (10 developers, 3 network gurus, 2 security expert, 5 financial payments expert, 2 lawyers, 3 marketing and business mgt experts, 10 testers) and investing 1 hour each every day of their lives to building an eCommerce payment platform for Zimbabwe. Within 90 days, we would have invested over 3,000 hours! Surely within 180 days (6,000hrs) we can be talking of a usable beta version!!!!

    Am I just crazy or what??? But i believe Gandi was right when he said “Be the change you want to see”

    1. In an ideal world where

      – there is free money to assist(without expecting a stake),
      – you come up with a skillset & resources that you perceive as sufficient and the formula just works,

      – people work,with a common mindset, on a money-making platform without reward,
      – your off-the-head time-estimation would translate to real world delivery,

      …this would be a brilliant idea!

      And then you wake up from your dream.

      1. I guess you know the history of Linux and other very successful “open source” projects that were “crowd sourced” across the world and continue to outgrow a lot of well funded initiatives.

        All we need is a few individuals to come up with a frame work then we all use that framework to add flesh. is such a framework.

        NB: Sometimes I become too optimistic….to the extent I see myself ruling a certain nation in the next 20 years!!!

        1. Yes, you guess right. Am totally clueless of Linux’s history. So much that I cannot see the obvious and clear analogy between a commercial service/venture and the creation of open source software. Surely they must be the same! Surely it will work! And shame on me for doubting that you are going to prove it!

          1. Well, I don’t think all that is necessary right now! This was/is not about you at all.

            In life there are people who “craft” great ideas and there are those that implement them. (and there are those that kill them too!!) By proposing I wasn’t declaring I am gonna do this and prove a point. NO, i am way past that childhood fallacy. Grown ups “bounce” ideas around and usually 1 out of a dozen comes to life and changes the way we do business! Needless to say, a question posed on this blog last year resulted in me forming a business that is now giving me a good sleep at night.

            Lets not create a culture of fear that certain quarters of society will kill me if I say this or that; for that on its entirety is the biggest killer of innovation.

            1. I dont even think your idea is that dangeorus, it only needs dedicated people, and it’ll be a sucess, leave those who want to kill ideas do just that, but . . . an idea whose time has come, I am in!

    2. i like your thinking @ Shoko. @tinmann:disqus does raise interesting questions as well. But how about if there was a community focused group who will invest their free time and if monies does start coming through the monies can be re-invested into the community and not benefit any developer, researcher.
      Also the community of contributers need not only be made up of developers, everybody should be welcome. Developers, designers, journalists, finance, medical professionals etc. Even the little person can contribute the little they can.

  4. I would like to see government regulation a scrapping off any charges to accessing a domain as well as downloading content from a locally hosted site.

    1. domain registrar’s and ZISPA incur a cost to keep their infrastructure up and running (DNS servers, people who have to create the registration templates, bandwidth, electricity …) how do expect them to recover these costs if domains are available for free. I personally think that the $20 per year domain registration/renewal fee is reasonable and justified.

      Depending on your ISP, local bandwidth has been and is free in Zimbabwe. Local bandwidth = traffic peering at the ZINX (closest definition I can think off)

      1. I appreciate the facts you have mentioned so I guess I should have stated that it should be mandotory for MNO to allow free access to ZINX member hosted sites and their content available zol and yo africa being typical examples.

  5. Also at least 20mb free daily for mobile internet users who recharge their phones at least once a day

  6. Great post. A very humble wish list right there @ Tendai. Governments have a tradition of throwing figures (stats) at the populace. But we all know statistics can easily be manipulated so opening up government data would be very welcome. For those in the know, does our ICT ministry have a digital strategy?

    Regarding an IMEI database, this could be community led but then the citizen might need to have the integrity not to buy handsets reported as stolen. What am i saying? For instance a service can be set up where “every” mobile user registers their phone and IMEI number. When their phone gets stolen they log onto that system and flag their mobile stolen. As a prospective buyer i can query that service using an IMEI number of a phone i want to buy. if flagged stolen i can report it or just choose not to buy. Call it ethical business i guess.

  7. On the issue of open data, i have been trying to harvest accidents data painfully using news websites’ reports. Does anyone know where in Zim such data can be obtained from? Not an interesting topic i know

    1. You’ve probably already thought about it but the police would be your best bet. Not sure if they are ready to hand it over but I’m sure if you can demonstrate the benefits for them, (i.e. how them handing git over will help them understand what their data is saying) you may get something. The best.

      1. Open data needs massive activism. Im part of the ODADI initiaive this side and its one hell of a mission to get governemnt structures handing over data yet its the right of the people to access the information anywere

        Scraping the information like you are doing is the start, given more people get involved you could end up with an exosystem that harvests data independant of the authorities.

      2. Mr Kabweza,we would have appreciated more if you had kept this story(5 Tech initiatives for 2013) on top of your blog for some time because its an interesting issue than to remove it and replace with those Facebook & Windows story with little benefit to our development as a country

  8. On ecommerce, we are just starting out ourselves:, so still have lots to learn but think we almost need more discussions on the concepts about ecommerce itself and teaching more people about it.

    Having read all the discussions about online payments etc on TechZim we thought why not work on gift card payment methods for a website {coded away while thinking : surely everyone can grasp the idea of an “airtime card” but online right 🙂 }. But it seems when discussing the project with people not only do we have to talk about what the gift cards are for but also how the online shopping concept works.

    Think its probably more about educating the 80% ( that dont know about/have access to these aspects than it is about financing or otherwise maybe.

  9. 1 development I would like to see amongst you Zimbabwean based developers is a stop to this bullshit, Joomla vs That. Read what we said 3 years ago on that matter!!!!!

    We had enough of that.
    Now shut up!

    1. That sir, is the best comment I have read in a very long time. Do not despair, the future on of Zim online trading is coming soon. Watch this space.

      1. Dont really get your point, Incase you find me scary please don’t be scared I dont live on the internet :-p . If you found my sarcasm with @disqus_w6PwiI2B72:disqus as bullying I’m face palmed.

        1. out of topic:

          Are you, by any chance in a “face palm” phase? I wont ask other questions that my mind is eager to suggest…

            1. women!…cant debug those.

              Psuedocode of the best solution we have


              until this.forgiven() == true


              Method this.forgiven() stores this matter in a high performance ROM chip. Easy reference and often accessed


  10. E-government is an IT project underway and will address most of the technical leaps you have mentioned above to be attained this year. However on the issue of your idea of atrociticity i beg to differ because most of our webpages are nothing close to the meaning of atrocious but rather a reflection of our national colours and monuments

  11. Who is this guy who puts custom built cms security over Joomla? When you fold your company who will update my software? Nah, you got jokes!

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