One of Zimbabwe’s leading tech innovators, a YALI fellow and cofounder of a pioneering online tv called TV Yangu, is in Silicon Valley (San Francisco USA) attending a series of events under the banner, ‘Rightscon.’
Munyaradzi Dodo, popularly known as Bloggo on the local tech scene, is one of the two tech enthusiasts representing Zimbabwe at the internet conference being held in the world’s technology capital, a place that is literacy home to every big technology company in the world.
Rightscon is the leading conference in the world convened to discuss issues around the future of the internet. It brings together Government officials, Start-ups, Silicon Valley Unicorns, Engineers, Activists, NGOs and users to share ideas and come up with solutions for challenges faced by different communities.
“I have met some powerful executives from different parts of the world. I also got ideas on how to tackle TV Yangu problems from Google, Twitter etc. I am learning so much here. Aside from the new partners I have met here, I have also found some interesting tools which I can take advantage of at zero cost,” said Bloggo in an interview with Start.co.zw
During one of his presentations, Bloggo introduced Silicon Valley to a Zimbabwean internet broadcaster called P.O Box TV as well as other interesting Zimbabwe start ups which are using the internet as a medium for engagement.
“My biggest lesson was realising that Silicon Valley is not just a place, it is a mind-set of the people who live and work here,” said Bloggo. “There are problems everywhere in the world, even in Silicon Valley. There are lots of homeless people in San Francisco far more per square km than in Harare despite the fact that there are some of the richest people in the wold who live here. Money is not always a solution to poverty. Superman is not coming to our rescue and batman is busy. We alone can solve our problems because we understand the context and the environment that creates them.”
“The start-ups that have grown to become Unicorns around the world started out trying to solve a problem in THEIR community and that solution just happened to appeal to a broader audience. FACEBOOK started out as a network for college students, WhatsApp started out as a solution to solve communication problem within one company. Solving a specific problem for your community is the first step and as the product/solution scales users become your brand ambassador. WhatsApp never advertised in Zimbabwe but people who use it are the ones who continue to advertise for it, because they are satisfied with the user experience.”
“He who controls the internet controls the future of the world because they have data, the more the data the more it can be analysed, mined packaged and sold to the highest bidder. WhatsApp and Facebook are at the fore of that evolution because they solve peoples need to communicate and people in turn give them their data and they sell that data to whoever wants access to it,” he added.
Bloggo believes that any idea can thrive online as long as it solves or meets a need that people have.
Responding to a question on how Zimbabwean programmers fare on a global scale, Bloggo said that Zimbabwean programmers are fairly equipped, yet there is need to create local solutions. “We should not copy paste what we see in other countries because the context within which those services are created is different. Tech is just a tool like a knife you use it to do what you want,” he added.
Responding to a question on whether there is interest from Silicon Valley to partner African and in particular Zimbabwean tech companies, he said that there are various partnerships and specific venture capitalists who have an interest in Africa. “You have to hunt for the opportunities. Data about Zimbabwean business is scarce. Data validates their investment without that it’s just hot air. They prioritize ease of doing business because at the core they are interested in making money they are unapologetic capitalists. The number 1 challenge Venture Capitalists highlighted was difficulty in exiting i.e. How to get their investment out after investment? If they can’t see a way to cash in their chips they won’t bet. In a way it’s gambling if they are not sure they can win they are not interested in playing. At this moment we are not in demand and we should show data that would justify investment and a way they and we can make money.”