Esoko being deployed in multiple countries across Africa presents unique and interesting challenges – all specific to each country’s agricultural, cultural, mobile and economic environments. In light of this, Esoko hosts as annual conference that brings together international partners to share ideas and learn from each other in person.
This year’s conference – the 4th of its kind – was held from April 23rd to 25th and included partners from Mozambique, Cote D’Ivoire, Kenya, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Burkina Faso, and Ghana.
Day 1 Highlight: Emerging themes in MIS
Esoko CEO Mark Davies reminded partners of the need to keep up to speed with current trends to improve the market information system/service industry. From Esoko’s point of view, there are three main themes springing up to drive the industry – global agriculture, mobile agriculture and market information. Under these, they key issues raised included:
Most software developers just want to fix their eyes on their computers and write code – no disturbances, no distractions. ‘The business team should do all the client interactions, we don’t want to be bothered’, is the usual cliché. But as with many other tech companies, Esoko understands the value of interacting with clients to know their real problems and develop solutions that will be most useful to them. Our engineering team has a “Know Your Customer” program in place – software engineers must go to field at some point to meet the farmers and other user groups they are building the tools for. Why? As Godwin Cudjoe puts it “By meeting them, we better understand the real-life consequences of our design decisions.” – and by the way, Godwin is an Engineering Manager at Esoko.
Erica and Samdan on the road.
When Samdan was asked to join our recent field trainers on a trip to farmers in the Volta Region of Ghana, he was initially hesitant. “I tried to avoid it, my comfort zone is behind my machine, coding, but I would have regretted not going”, he said after returning from the trip. He continued, “Every software developer who goes to meet with the end-user has an experience that he will cherish for a long time. You will see the impact and the change you are making, see the need of the people and solve it in your own small way to change someone’s life. I was expecting farmers to be literate but found otherwise, some couldn’t even open a text message on their phones and that meant something to me – simplicity! Now I’m motivated to do more.” Samdan shared an advice – simplicity is the best – make it simple and basic if you really want users to understand and use your product.