Crowdsource that app

Business is using the concept of crowdsourcing to access innovative mobile and desktop applications.

Johannesburg, 20 Jul 2018
Read time 7min 30sec
Llewellyn Ramsagar, General Manager: Enterprise Marketing, MTN Business.
Llewellyn Ramsagar, General Manager: Enterprise Marketing, MTN Business.

Llewellyn Ramsagar, General Manager for Enterprise Marketing at MTN Business, says: "Crowdsourcing application development allows industry to identify the best solutions for very specific use cases they might otherwise not have access to. It also means innovative apps can be built quickly and cheaply, without businesses having to hire their own developer."

In addition, crowdsourcing initiatives can bring together app developers and businesses with specific problem statements that would never normally cross paths, enabling the latter to cherry pick apps that are both relevant to their market as well as a good fit for their business.

Ramsagar says: "There's great potential for corporates to uncover innovative, agile and sustainable apps via crowdsourcing, and this approach is only going to increase in adoption over time. We're already seeing companies that play in the ERP and CRM space being challenged by smaller companies that have newer and more modern ways of doing things, unhampered by legacy to a large degree, answering the needs of a new breed of organisations."

It also gives businesses access to local, home-grown talent, the out-of-the-box thinkers who drive disruption and change, and who understand the challenges and opportunities of the local environment intimately. There's a growing trend towards apps that empower society and that solve real needs. "Africa has an array of very unique challenges, which means that local app developers are being incredibly innovative at coming up with solutions to those challenges."

There are several South African success stories, apps that have made a significant difference to people's lives across all sectors, a few of which are listed below:

* Zulzi, an on-demand delivery service app that brings groceries from various retailers to the doors of its customers within an hour.
* WumDrop, an on-demand delivery app that enables users to pick up and drop off anything across the country.
* Domestly makes it easier to book and pay a domestic worker, and enables these workers to manage their bookings, money and find maps and directions to each booking. Domestly created 600 sustainable jobs in the first six months of going live.
* SnapScan, the now familiar payment app, is widely used across the country.
* Tuta-Me, an on-demand service linking learners and teachers.

Ramsagar says: "Three must-have qualities of a good app are that it must be relevant, it must be scalable and it must solve a real need. In 2018, new apps are usually the mushroom we see sprouting from the ground. There is a mass below the ground in the form of complex systems and business models behind them. The app creates a seamless and frictionless user experience laid over an otherwise complex model."

Globally, apps such as Facebook and WhatsApp have had a dramatic impact on the way people interact and organise their lives. He says: "They've provided people and organisations with the ability to communicate freely and effectively in a frictionless way. And that's what apps do, they remove barriers to interaction."

In the local context, app developers have to consider certain factors when creating their apps. "Firstly, they have to decide who their audience will be. In South Africa, we have this dichotomy. There's a pool of very sophisticated consumers with smartphones on the one hand, but there are also people with more fundamental needs on the other, who still have capable devices and unmet needs. Developers need to understand who they are targeting, what that unmet need is and how to meet it most effectively."

"However," he continues, "some apps manage to cut across both types of consumer." He cites Uber as an example of an app that meets the need for on-demand transport by many consumers looking for a low-cost, predictable, frictionless solution, while at the same time creating much needed employment opportunities. Sweepsouth is another such app, offering cleaning services on-demand while enabling people to access employment at the same time.

Another factor that's relevant in the South African context is the political and regulatory environment. Uber, for example, has not been well received by the existing local metered taxi industry. "Local app developers may need to consider environmental and political issues that may not be applicable in other countries around the world, when developing their app or service."

Water, food security and power are three uniquely South African challenges that, when solved, can be scaled globally. "During the rolling electricity blackouts that the country experienced a few years ago, the GridWatch app was invaluable in telling consumers when they should plan for an outage in their area."

He adds: "Never have South Africans as a nation been more connected than they are today. In 1990, people had the Internet at work, but not at home. By 1995, some had the Internet at home and work and could maybe access it at a coffee shop. By 2000, wireless connectivity was available in the office, at home and in coffee shops. Today, in 2018, everything and everyone is connected all of the time. There are few countries in the world that have this level of access to quality, high-speed network coverage. It is this all-pervasive connectivity that allows all of the apps mentioned above, and others, to take hold."

Naturally, the ambition of every app developer is to come up with a mega app like Twitter that will sit on every device. Ramsagar says: "We're already starting to see the next level of integration in terms of augmented and cognitive reality, connected devices and unique business models that can sell very sophisticated solutions as a service, with the mobile app being the fulcrum. Imagine being able to create 'education as a service' or 'mining as a service'. This is already happening in some industries, such as manufacturing and mining, but it's going to become more commonplace and consumerised going forward."

What makes a good app?

An app must solve a real need that isn't being addressed effectively by something else; it must do it in a way that's easy and intuitive to use; and it must have broad appeal, it can't be too niche. Ramsagar says developers must ask themselves: do we really need an app for that? The app must also take into account the sensitivities of the local community and its needs. Finally, the app must be updated regularly to remain relevant.

He suggests that app developers ask themselves the following questions before sharing their app:

* Is there a market need for the application?
* Is the app a complete solution and does it work in a way the user would expect? Does it rely on elements up and down the value chain that might change or are subject to disruption?
* Does it actually do what it is meant to do, and resolve the needs of the challenges it claims to address?
* Is the problem being solved big or small?
* How creative is the approach? Is it freshly entertaining, a new approach to an old problem or a better way to do something more effectively? Is it a new application or service that has been created?
* Is it contributing towards the improvement of society or business in some new way?
* Is it commercially, socially, politically or personally appealing, relevant and exciting?
* Is the app easy to use?
* Is there a clarity, simplicity and intuitive feel of how the app works and what to do next? What is the potential of the application and the team of developers behind it?
* Can the app be taken to the next level, monetised effectively, scaled locally and scaled globally?
* How much potential impact does the application have for communities or industry?
* Will people find it indispensable or is it something they will download and forget about after a few uses?
* Can the app "think" for itself, forecast and predict the user's likely future behaviour by analysing patterns in data inputs?

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