On August 17th many employees of ThoughtWorks Uganda office woke up to the shocking news that office will be closed at the end of year. The apparent reason for the closure is no business visibility in the foreseeable future. Of course this is tragic and has left many perplexed and some stranded since ThoughtWorks was seen as model for all Ugandan IT firms to aim for.
For those who don’t know, Thoughtworks is a US based global software development and products company with office in many countries which include but not limited to : South Africa, India, Australia, Germany, Turkey, Brazil and many others.
Like many software development firms it’s very hard to find sustainable business in countries where policy doesn’t favour IT based solutions, most businesses will either tend to stick to their manual systems of operation due to the perceived high cost of switching to software based solutions or with the case of government institutions procure expensive off-the-shelf systems from Europe. Cases where custom systems are developed often have local firms or local firms that are funded from abroad over-looked in favour of those systems.
This is not something that will change overnight because the perception of incompetence of local firms stems from a few that either fail to deliver on required work or fail to meet targeted deadlines and deliver poor quality work. Yes, though we have some technically poor firms we also have firms that deliver quality timely work and…..imagine…INNOVATE!
In order for us to stem this tide we need you a local vibrant start-up culture which is still lacking in many aspects. Let me illustrate my point by showing you some innovative Uganda software firms.
Thinvoid is an interesting study on the progression of Ugandan Software start-ups with their team producing some truly innovative solutions like Tambula which is a solution for tracking an assets using GPS technology. It’s currently deployed on hundreds of boda-bodas in Kampala today.
Access.mobile (AM) (http://www.accessmobileinc.com/) is a mobile technology business based in Denver, Colorado (USA) with a local presence in East Africa, managed out of the regional hub in Kampala, Uganda. They have showcased innovation in the medical field through solutions like clinic communicator (http://www.cliniccommunicator.com/) which helps health providers stay connected to patients.
There are lot more Uganda software firms to go into but this should emphasize the ability of local start-ups to thrive under the harsh realities of having sustainable businesses in Uganda. It is indeed sad to see the ThoughtWorks offices closed but we hope this will inspire local firms to step up and deliver comparable services or push the IT sector further along even though I fear it may be a long road ahead