Yesterday, seated in the Innovation Village, Julius - seated across, whispered to Solomon - seated directly opposite, about a new game on Google Play, called Togikwatako.
The game requires the player to fight off predators trying to attack and destroy the Ugandan constitution.
It is an imitation of the now famous (or infamous) Togikwatako national campaign by the opposition in Uganda calling upon the masses to rally against the ruling NRM party that is seeking to amend the constitution.
When I played the game on Julius' phone, it was quite interesting and i liked it because of its simplicity. So, I requested him to get me in touch with the developer - who happened to be around the Innovation Village - called Nyole Mike.
As I waited for Mike, I decided to download and give it a try. It opens with a call to remain calm, through a song by Maddox Ssematimba - Tukume Eddembe - which continues to play in the background as you play the game.
When Mike finally arrived and settled down, I quickly asked if he got rights from the owner to use the song. Something to which he replied "no", though doesn't think it is illegal.
This reminded me of a discussion about Intellectual Property amongst some ICTA-U members where everyone involved concluded that mass awareness about IP is needed.
Moving on, and very keen to understand what he thinks about the viability of his idea, I asked how long it took to think and come up with the idea. He responded "three days". He also let me know that this is a long-term project.
Basically, it took three days to arrive at the decision to work on a game and launch it. Plus, this is something he thinks he'll work on for the long term. No market research, nothing like studying who his ideal user is.
This confirmed the words of Evelyn Namara in a recent interview where she said: "most innovators in Uganda start with the product, then later turn around to figure out the problem it can solve".
Any sustainable innovation should start from the problem point of view, then work backward to the solution, not the other way round.
First of all, the decision to work on the game wasn't well thought out. It was basically excitement - in my view - because of what is taking place in the country.
These solutions are not only half-baked but not necessary. Just a mere waste of time and the little resources they have at hand.
It is very exciting to come up with a cool app that people can talk about for a few weeks or months, but then what next?
Have you asked yourself whether the "problem" you're trying to solve even exists? If yes, should it be solved that way? What will happen when all the fuss about this entire 'Togikwatako' campaign settles?
Secondly, this isn't the first game Mike is working on a game. He worked on one three years ago - which he abandoned.
When I asked him why he said "I didn't have money to hire graphics people. My friends that were working on the graphics all wanted to be paid."
The same challenge he pointed out when talking about his new Togikwatako game; "there's no money to help me work on my game."
The question remains; why move on without rectifying the challenges you faced with the first product?
Ideally, one should seek answers to what went wrong with the first product before thinking of something new.
But, again, how do you expect people to fund ideas that are not well thought out? Something you just wake up and start working on.
Lastly, I wanted to find out if - in his three years of developing games - he has a firm grip on how the landscape is in Uganda.
That's when i asked if he knows Kola studios. He said "yes". I further asked if he has ever paid them a visit - and, nope. He has never.
Kola studios - the developers of the Matatu game - has been able to not only develop a game that got attention nationwide and beyond, but monetize it too. They have been in the industry for now over five years. So, why not keep them close?
To me, this highlights the lack of a collaborating spirit in the ecosystem. The sense of selfishness deeply ingrained in the innovators and entrepreneurs where everyone wants to come off as Superman.
There's no reason for a game developer in Uganda to make mistakes in 2017 that were made by Kola Studios in 2012. Reach out to them, ask for help!
Unless we work on the above, we shall continue to complain that our startups and entrepreneurs aren't taking off for lack of a local user base, trust, and support. As long as we give users an option to choose between new disruptive (yet mediocre) solutions and old (tested and) proven solutions - they'll always opt for the latter.
As long as we give users an option to choose between new disruptive (yet mediocre) solutions and old (tested and) proven solutions - they'll always opt for the latter.
Therefore, I urge whoever is working closely with innovators and entrepreneurs in Uganda, to hold them to higher standards. Let them think beyond just today as well as focus on real problems.
Let's not allow ourselves get reduced to mediocrity and later complain that Ugandans don't want to use local solutions or investors don't want to invest in our local solutions.