Cape Town - Last Wednesday was a watershed moment in the story of African connectivity.
After Jacob Zuma resigned, President Cyril Ramaphosa addressed the nation at the much anticipated SONA on Friday night.
The phrase that stole the nation’s heart #SendMe has become a signal for the reinvigorated tackling of critical issues that matter most to South Africans; one being that of connectivity.
Ramaphosa announced a renewed focus on ICT, focusing on releasing more spectrum, driving the digital agenda in communications and most importantly, supporting the start-up community in order to drive new jobs for our youth.
I am inspired!
But we know that while it is easy to make these statements, executing them will be the defining moment.
While we tip our hats to President Ramaphosa for putting ICT firmly back on the agenda as a government priority, as South Africans and South African businesses, we can play a critical role here too.
With 27% of our population currently unemployed, there is no better time for a true digital revolution and one that needs to happen quickly and scale fast.
We have an opportunity to re-educate our workforce digitally so that as a population we contribute meaningfully to a new digital economy.
As large organisations and startups, we need to emulate how Silicon Valley operates on how they grow these successful businesses.
The key is to rethink how one solves problems and how we organise ourselves to be customer-focused and deliver at high velocity.
It is a tough decision for businesses to “Go Digital”, the changes are extensive and painful, but once you start on this journey you can scale your business dramatically, you can grow your revenues exponentially and reach untapped audiences cost effectively.
Silicon Valley is where digital businesses solve First World problems at an epic rate. It’s time for us in Africa to solve our own Third World problems rather than wait for anyone else to come to the rescue.
This type of local intervention and disruption will impact our society positively and negatively.
On the positive side as consumers, think about the applications and platforms that have changed our lives, the likes of Google, Apple, Uber and Facebook, which have set a bar and created expectations for consumers on how technology should work.
These digital platforms solve a number of problems and deliver incredible experiences, at the same time they are turning our world of buying physical products on its head. We no longer buy CDs or hail taxis, we now consume music on a subscription service, we use cars as and when we need them. These services are difficult to compete with, as they don’t compete on price they compete by offering incredible customer experiences.
The negative is that taxable incomes are leaving our shores to Silicon Valley, which represents over 40% of the US GDP. One small little valley dominates the global revenues in this world of digital.
The good news is that as Africans we too can play our part in generating highly scalable revenues, because no-one has started solving developing economies customer problems at scale. The technologies are now there to support smaller margins and to scale to much larger markets.
We need to “relearn” how to structure, operate and innovate as small and large businesses.
The Silicon Valley way of work is certainly exportable and can be retro fitted to perform even better in our economies.
We really have no choice, the world is moving exponentially and if we don’t leapfrog now we will forever be left behind.
We need to realise it is not just about the technology, it is about the way we focus on the right problems.
I often spend time with organisations and startups who try to solve as many problems as possible. My advice: just focus on the three to four problems that solve your customers biggest grievances and the challenges they bring on the highest returns to your business. Because if you can’t make money and
grow your business to create jobs, then why do it?
Then it is about solving problems quickly. Google and others around Silicon Valley use techniques like Google Design Sprints where a business can take a problem, validate the assumptions, check with customers and prototype a solution in five days.
A famous example of this is Slack, the enterprise messaging and collaboration tool. They struggled to launch Bots into messaging until they ran Google
Design Sprints to solve the problem quickly.
I personally work on a 60-hour rule to eclipse the rest of the world’s five days problem solving normality. Doing things within 60 hours helps you focus on the problem and solve it quickly or more importantly, develop a culture of being fine with failing in that time.
Finally we need to learn how to scale our solutions by being scrappy with money and leveraging all these massive social platforms, partnerships, global markets, getting to your customer quickly and most importantly, finding the right audience who are passionate about your product is essential.
It is time for South Africans to ditch terms like “now, now” and “just now”, because we need to move immediately.
Let’s join the challenge of our President Cyril Ramaphosa to #SendMe, it is time for us to unite and make a digital change! #4thIndustrialRevolution
* To join the #SendMe Digital movement please register here https://goo.gl/G6uFVQ.
** Brett StClair is an ex-Googler turned digital banker and now CEO of Google Cloud Partner Siatik.
*** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.