Back to Index
technology for Zimbabwe's future - Interview with Limbikani
Makani, founding editor TechZim
October 26, 2011
View audio file details
Limbikani Makani - Read
Makani is a technology entrepreneur who is working tirelessly to
build a vibrant start-up culture in Zimbabwe. He is the founder
of ZimLyrics, host on Dariro.com and the founding editor of the
(TechZim) blog. Limbikani is also one of the convenors of Barcamp
Zimbabwe incorporating the start up challenge. Techzim has become
a widely read news blog focusing on IT news, product reviews and
Internet services in Zimbabwe.
was your first experience of the Internet like?
That was back in 2001. I was working for a guy who had a couple
of supermarkets and a bar in Gweru. I worked for him as a clerk.
He bought a dial up package, and he'd check his email on Yahoo.
He actually didn't want me to use his computer except to compile
numbers and so on. So one day I was working and then I thought let
me click on the Internet icon, and it connected. So on comes AltaVista
and I started entering stuff, like trees and cars . . . all this
information came up. It was a religious experience. I thought the
amount of planning and books I'd need to have just to get
the same kind of information from the nearest college or library.
Eventually, I started
thinking about the possibility of creating something online. If
you remember there was a tool back then called Yahoo geocities.
I thought why not put stuff online. My friends and I enjoyed music,
and I decided to put Zimbabwean lyrics online. So I created a geocities
site called ShonaLyrics. I started with lyrics form Lenard Dembo,
Tuku, System Tazvida and the Tazesesa Challengers. By that time
there were a lot of people in the Diaspora. People started writing
me letters requesting that I upload actual songs.
did those experiences shape you and what you do today?
I had just finished high school, and I had to look for a job. I'd
be lying if I said I knew what I wanted to do. So when I found the
Internet, I found something that I loved. Learning how to put content
on the Internet felt so good and it influenced what I studied at
college. I applied to do Electrical Engineering and Computer Science,
and in the end I studied computer science. While in college I was
maintaining and adding content to the site.
After college I worked
at CARE International, and moved to Harare with the same organisation.
It was very boring. I couldn't create things; I had to look
after a network. My passion was geared towards using the Internet
to create content. In 2009 I started blogging, and that grew into
what is today Techzim.
function do you think TechZim serves in the Zimbabwean ICT sector?
I think what the ICT sector lacks is some sort of feedback from
the consumer and someone knowledgeable in the field. I've
met a lot of people at technology companies like Econet, senior
people who are big fans of TechZim and who give comments on stories,
in confidence. I think there are a lot of good people who realise
that they need the feedback, and they use the feedback. We have
had newspapers like the Independent or the Daily News pick up what
we have done, and they speak even louder, they have a wider readership.
organised a Barcamp here in Zimbabwe, what were you hoping to achieve?
The point was to provide a platform for techies and entrepreneurs.
We wanted to get people to know more about how other entrepreneurs
are innovating. We also discussed some issues that were important
to us. For example, a good business opportunity is provided by tapping
into Econet's 5.4 million subscribers, or using existing platforms
to create business. A lot of developers, a lot of web companies
and mobile app developers are curious about those things. Barcamp
was about asking those people what they cared about, and what they
wanted to see. It was a place for discussion for solutions. I met
a lot of incredible people. The one thing I loved was that everyone
was mixing and talking regardless of race or what they've
achieved. For me that was amazing.
been following your coverage of ZISPA and .co.zw domain registration.
It seems to be a very Zimbabwean problem that it's an unnecessarily
complicated process. What are the issues that stop ZISPA from making
The big problem is that it's all unclear. No one knows, and
the few people that do know are the ISPs that do the registration.
The truth is if you go to a registrar with your paperwork, they
will register you. The problem is that they don't make this
information (registration requirements) available. Either they don't
have the resources, or they don't want to or they're
afraid. Afraid that if this becomes something that just anybody
can do something negative might happen, or the resource that they've
been feeding from might disappear, or it might get into the wrong
hands. Because of that they're afraid to just let go. I think
they can let go. Is it too expensive? It's actually not. ZISPA
doesn't charge the ISPs for domain registration at all. What
they charge is a membership to ZIPSA which is $30 a month, which
is nothing to a big organisation like Utande or TELCO. Unfortunately,
there is not enough information out there about domain registration.
The ZIPSA website hasn't been updated in several years. ZISPA
can immediately improve that. Secondly they can make the entire
you have a bird's eye view of the ICT industry what do you
think were some of this year's major successes?
One is mobile money. I think it has the opportunity to do a lot
of things for people who want to do transactions.
you think it's going to be on the same scale as M-PESA Kenya?
I was reading that M-PESA moved more money around than the whole
of Western Union globally. M-PESA has been a huge success in terms
of money and in terms of changing lives. I think mobile money has
the same potential. Will it make the same money? Definitely not.
Kenya has a population of 40 million; we're only 12 million.
But in terms of person-to-person it will improve lives.
This is the
year when companies have launched mobile broadband, and this is
the one time when seven or eight million Zimbabweans have an opportunity
to use their mobile phones for something other than voice. This
is the year when the power of the Internet is so close to being
available to everyone. It's still at a cost, but that will
come down. You can explain the Internet then show a person how to
use it on their device, provided it is Internet enabled. For me
Visit the Kubatana.net
Please credit www.kubatana.net if you make use of material from this website.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License unless stated otherwise.