First Source Technology
If you grew up in Bulawayo, the words ‘smoking silos’ will probably conjure up nostalgic memories of our city’s past stature as an industrial production heavyweight both nationally and regionally. With thousands working in her industrial plants and helping to grow the nation’s economy, Bulawayo stood proud and solidified her status as the industrial heartbeat of the nation. It only makes sense that the National University of Science and Technology (NUST) was set up in the city – the graduates of this institution would go out and set the pace for Zimbabwe’s industrial and technological growth. However, with the country’s economy up in smoke for almost two decades, the bulk of industrial firms have shut their doors, asphyxiated by waves of stifling business climates.
NUST, however is very much alive and still churning out solid engineers and computer scientists year on year. Our education system produces bright minds, while the economic order flushes the majority of them out of the country. From this predicament, we at First Source Technology (FST), a company that leverages technology to drive improved business performance, have identified an opportunity.
Globally, machine learning and artificial intelligence are forcing a shift in the types of jobs that humans do and the way that they work. Studies from various global consulting firms show that the future of work is ditigal, it is more remote, and it is increasingly freelance. Based on these insights, we are building FST to become a company that taps into the pool of tech talent in Bulawayo, upskills it, and provides a platform that will see our youth:
- Participate in the global tech economy and ecosystem
- Become a technology feeder into Zimbabwe’s growing tech entrepreneurship space that is disrupting industries such logistics, education and agribusiness
What is especially important for us is to include and nurture female tech talent in this process, while also specifically leveraging technology to foster the township economy.
This year alone has been a busy and fulfilling one for us: The (imicabango) Emisha City Hackathon started off by co-identifying service delivery hurdles being faced by the Bulawayo City Council that could be overcome by harnessing technology. The challenges were tackled by a select group of 60 enthusiastic and talented young people, working in groups over a weekend to come up with real solutions for our beloved Bulawayo. Local as well as diaspora entrepreneurs and professionals, as well as representatives of the GIZ and Friedrich Naumann Foundation came in to support and coach the teams. We are currently mentoring and coaching one of the winning teams to deliver a booking system product to the BCC, which will hopefully be rolled out next year.
Impressed by our work, the Friedrich Naumann Foundation commissioned FST to pitch and build a tech-based product that would be part of the foundation’s 60th anniversary celebrations. In a very short space of time, our trusted developer, Brian Mutsi delivered. We are very excited about this product that will be giving power back to the Zimbabwean consumer. Stay tuned for the announcement of the App Store launch on our Twitter account.
With other local and international tech projects already in the pipeline, we are really looking forward to the company’s growth and the positive impact that these projects will have on our city and communities in 2019. The legacy of Bulawayo as an industrial hub may be a thing of the past, but maybe we could reposition and reignite the city into a technology hub (think Lagos, Nairobi, Cape Town). With the right support and investment, Bulawayo’s youth can become active participants in the global tech ecosystem, while also making a healthy living out of it.
The First Source Technology team has built the company while in hectic full-time jobs and life commitments. What drives us is the refusal to get stuck looking backwards with nostalgia for what was – we are passionately fueled to face forward and help reshape our city’s future narrative. The youth will and can take Bulawayo where it needs to go, and we are here to empower them through technological skills and exposure to local and international projects.