When it comes to technology, many South Africans are labouring under the misconception that solutions developed overseas are of better quality, writes Kgabo Badimo, MD of Spescom DataVoice. The local software industry in particular is struggling, perhaps as a result of the stigma of perceived inequality attached to South African technology, which could simply be due to poor marketing.

According to nFold Software's annual Enterprise Software Survey, conducted in association with World Wide Worx, only 17% of respondents indicated that they would prefer to buy locally developed software, and a very small 7.5% indicated that they would prefer in-house developed solutions. This is contrast to an enormous 60.4% of survey respondents who prefer to buy from a global supplier.
However the reality is, local developers have a better knowledge of local business needs, and are far better positioned to provide superior support. And according to the same survey, the satisfaction levels for locally developed products were considerably higher than the ratings from international vendors. In fact, international analyst firm Gartner ranks South Africa as one of the top 30 software development outsourcing destinations, and local software engineers are globally recognised for their knowledge, high levels of education and innovation.
South Africa has a very strong, albeit small, software skills base in the country with experience specifically tailored towards the African market. While there is a multitude of technology and software solutions developed internationally, these often do not meet the needs of users in South Africa and the rest of the continent.
These solutions also tend to fall outside of the price range of local companies due to exchange rates, import duties and high total cost of ownership resulting from the need to obtain service and spares overseas. Often these solutions also require a large amount of customisation to work locally, further increasing the total cost of ownership of products.
Despite this, many corporates feel more comfortable purchasing IT solutions developed internationally, regardless of the costs involved and the poor quality of service and support. This attitude is slowly changing, however, as in today's challenging economic climate, more and more businesses are starting to focus on cost as well as the true value solutions that can add to the bottom line.
Organisations are discovering that locally developed solutions are far better suited to the South African environment than those developed overseas. Not only are the solutions more affordable in the long run, they can also be customised more easily and at less expense than international counterparts. They can offer more functionality, and because they are locally developed, service and support is more readily available, resulting in less downtime and frustration.
From a software development point of view, locally developed technologies are actually on a par with international offerings, due to the need for adherence and compliance with the very same international standards and best practices as those developed elsewhere.
The main advantage of using local suppliers who develop local software, aside from cost savings, is that the developers are always available to work jointly with the customer to customise and enhance the technology. They are also on hand to configure the solution and tailor parameters within a few days, instead of the process taking weeks or even months.
Although there has been difficulty for South African technology companies in overcoming perceptions that local solutions are of an inferior quality, several reasons are causing businesses to reconsider buying local. These include factors such as excellent local skills, local pricing and local support, which are increasingly starting to make sense to organisations considering their bottom line.
Inflexible software licensing and inadequate support are also driving more interest in local products. Price is no longer the main consideration. Customers want effective solutions that work for them, with high levels of support. South African developers can offer exactly this, proving that local technology really is lekker.