Africa has leap frogged so many technologies and processes that there is no reason why that shouldn’t be the case in area of software quality and testing as well.
I was in Kenya for a few days this week so I decided to try and find out what I could about software quality and testing in this developing market. In the process I spoke to regular people about their experience using software built locally and also spoke to Tezza Business Solutions, the leading Testing solution provider in east Africa. I got the feeling that software testing in Africa is at a pivotal moment (at least in Kenya). And here’s why I think so:
1. Focus on Technology as an engine for growth
There are numerous signs that Kenya is serious about transforming into a knowledge based society, based to a large extent on IT.
The national broad band strategy aims to provide broadband internet to all Kenyans. One of the main issues identified in the strategy document is that the lack of content and applications with local relevance is impeding uptake of broadband.
As a result, local software development is being actively pushed by the government and private sector. There are now multiple incubators in Nairobi. The most popular is iHub. But there are others such as “88mph” and Innovation 4 Africa. The area has now been dubbed the “silicon savannah”. In Machakos, the ambitious Konza Techno City is planned. With this big push into local development, the need for professional testing will certainly follow.
2. Importance of quality has arrived As Ms Carol Gitonga from Tezza business solutions says “Executives still ask why they should spend so much on verifying software quality. Quite often, the first real tests are acceptance tests executed by the end users”. In Europe and America, companies are highly sensitive about releasing untested software to their customers. The risk of a ‘shit storm’ in social media is enough to give executives the shivers. Awareness of the impact of low quality is on the rise in Africa as well but it may take a few more years. As competition increases and perhaps a few high profile projects hit the wall, the consciousness for quality will increase very quickly. Smart test specialists will be prepared to catch the wave.
“In a city like Lagos in Nigeria, some companies believe, if your software only works for half the population, it’s enough!”.
Ms Gitonga, Tezza Business Solutions
In Europe and America, people that I talk to can hardly believe how many university graduates in Africa are just waiting for the opportunity to do a meaningful job. Testing can be very labour intensive activity and in this environment, that would not be a problem. If tester skills are developed in a coordinated and structured way, who knows, before long perhaps Kenya will start to compete with Egypt or even India.
4. New approaches to testing
In conclusion, I come back to my initial comment on Leap Frogging. At the moment, the processes and methods of testing are being taken over wholesale from Europe and America. In my opinion, Africa should leap frog some of these ways of verifying quality. Is it still relevant to hire entire testing teams within an organisation? Can we not perfect the crowd (or cloud) testing approach so that every company can access test resources only to the extent and duration that they need them? Which other approaches can we develop in Africa that perhaps suite us culturally better than those practiced in Europe and America?
Testing is just taking off in Africa. Let’s do it our way, right from the start.