Richard Gordon, Jr President and CEO, Richmar & Associates Inc has experience in IT accumulated over the years. Richmar & Associates Inc has over the years specialised in providing three primary services: Being a data centre as well as providing cloud computing services; offering application delivery services—which include software services and virtual applications, virtualised desktop images; information security and disaster recovery. The association opened its doors to Kenya and Rwanda from the beginning of this year. Development Agenda spoke to Gordon to find out his experience working in the IT sector in developing countries.
Q: What are some of the IT opportunities in Kenya?
A:Many companies have continued to deliver sub-standard technologies in the Kenyan market. Kenya has been a dumping site for lower quality technology services and solutions. Other than the fact that the technologies don’t work-based on the discussions I have had with the customers, they are also not secure. A good example is the banking sector where most the technologies deployed IN the country are insecure leaving customers vulnerable to theft, fraud and shrinkage. Secondly paper-based transactions involving cash provide opportunities for loss of income and revenue for the government and individuals due to theft. When a company wants to automate (eliminate paper work) and deploy a technology that fails to work properly, the problem it was meant to address remains, but needed financial resources are lost.
Q: Where does the problem lie?
A: Kenya’s information technology is in its infancy for the majority of the population — primarily because most people have not had an experience with enterprise, or Internet related technologies for long. Many computer users are well informed from the Internet user perspective, but not from a back office perspective. Most people know how to log into a computer and accomplish many task using available applications but most of them are not able to create the applications that perform such tasks.
The applications are engineered from outside the country. As these applications are becoming more popular their growth is out pacing the level of knowledge required to produce them locally. Because of this reality many outsiders have taken advantage of the local Kenyan customers by delivering poor quality products, services and solutions.
Q: How are you looking forward to make a difference in the IT sector in Kenya?
A: One of my objectives is to educate both the government and commercial customers on the type of technologies, products, services and solutions that are available and how they can be deployed effectively. We intend to train application developers, programmers and customers on effective approaches for delivering first class technologies.
Q: How are you planning to offer this training?
A: We will create mentoring programmes for young people who are interested in developing world class IT skills. We will also facilitate the development of local entrepreneurs who may want to create their own business in IT related areas. We will teach them how to prepare tender winning proposals, how to conduct business development, find new customers and how to effectively manage a growing business.
Q: How do you effectively nurture entrepreneurs since research indicates that most businesses fail within one year?
A: We are looking forward to nurture them through periodic reporting —which is part of the mentoring process, whereby we meet regularly to exchange information about challenges being encountered, lessons learnt and how to effectively use challenges as stepping stones into success in business.
Q: How are you planning to recruit such entrepreneurs?
A: We are targeting people with ideas that can be translated into products and services. We will embrace the concept of venture capital support as a way of assisting start-up companies and individuals in exchange for equity, sharing of company shares through agreements.
Q: What can be done to bridge the gap between institutions of higher learning and the market needs?
A: There is urgent need to have world class computer laboratories – where students can be able to engage themselves with up-to-date software and programmes. This will enable them to raise to the higher ground of creating, innovating contextual programmes to meet the needs of Kenyans. The M-pesa revolution needs to be seen in agriculture to scale production, in the transport to curb accidents, in knowledge dissemination, and also in the security front.