We all know the importance of our social networks and it is becoming more evident that the rest of the world is quickly adopting the same types of technology in order to empower users, whether it is banking, social, political or simply to take care of one’s health, mobile technology has been growing enormously. Now, more than ever, the world is realizing the power of technology and that specific to mobile devices as recently witnessed in Egypt, Libya and other nations facing tyrannical rule. The country of Zimbabwe is facing a changing political climate and among those supporting positive change within Zimbabwe is Prime Minister Richard Morgan Tsvangirai.
Recently, Acquity Group President and CEO Chris Dalton had a unique opportunity to engage the Prime Minister of Zimbabwe, Morgan Tsvangirai at the Ernst and Young Chicago offices. The meeting comprised of past winners of the E&Y Entrepreneurs of the Year Award and several other business leaders within the Chicago-land area.
The goal of this meeting was to engage business leaders and discuss the emerging markets of Zimbabwe and how the changing political climate will foster growth and sustainable business opportunities. Mobile technology was among the most compelling topics at the meeting as evidenced by the growing technology adoption rate within Zimbabwean. Chris Dalton led the discussion, not only as a business leader in the global technology market, but as someone who understands the power of technology to change the lives of those who use it. The country of Zimbabwe is no different. Zimbabwe has leveraged mobile technology in a variety of ways including healthcare, political campaigning, social networking and banking.
Everything from lending money to friends and family to scheduling hospital visits is driven by mobile devices. The pharmaceutical industry is leveraging mobile devices to prevent counterfeit medicines from being sold in clinics and ensuring only the right medicines are used for the right ailments. Technology has undoubtedly increased transparency in all aspects of the African continent and has led the way for improving the lives of its citizens. For example, the Open Knowledge Network (OKN) has been working provide local content in local languages to all areas of Africa. The Open Knowledge Network was setup by the G8 to bridge the gap in the digital divide that is common in low-income areas of the world.
It is common for African individuals to purchase multiple mobile devices as SIM chips are readily available for quickly accessing telecom services across Zimbabwe. There are many compelling reasons why mobile technology is spreading through Africa, but the most overarching is that it connects people across the land, from urban areas to rural farm lands, the African people are empowered through these devices. A focal point of the discussions between the Prime Minister and Chris Dalton revolved around the need to improve education in order to support sustainable technology growth. Currently, there is a growing need in the labor industry specifically mining, so vocational training has been rapidly growing; however, with the onset of technology, children will require specialized training in order to be the innovators of future technology.
The recurring theme throughout discussions with The Prime Minister always boiled down to economic opportunity and the betterment of the people. We wanted to know more, nay, we had to know more. Executive Vice President Matt Schmeltz hosted a luncheon for the Prime Minister where key points from previous discussions at E&Y were highlighted including technology in government. Conversations stemming from the previous meeting were discussed in-depth with government, technology, education and the upcoming elections being the talking points. Yes, for those who do not know, current President of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe, will be forcing an election within six months against none other than the Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, himself. There is no doubt that there is a lot at stake and with such volatility, there will need to be direction and guidance for a leader like Prime Minister, which made the meeting with Matt Schmeltz and Chris Dalton so important. Matt and Chris have been leading the IT space with digital marketing solutions and compelling technology partnerships that placed Acquity Group as one of the best-in-class services firms.
Matt highlighted the need to bring technology to government in order to improve the “red tape” and avoid the bureaucratic constraints that are often associated with impoverished countries that lack the technology infrastructure due to failing economic opportunities. The Prime Minister specifically mentioned his shock when seeing a line of fifty people waiting for forms in order to order to apply for a Zimbabwean passport; he simply stated in a low growl, “there has to be a better way.” Indeed. There is a lot of opportunity in Zimbabwe, but how to achieve any sustainable development was the question at hand. Chris provided meaningful points asserting the need for free enterprise and providing the provisions for long-term technology growth thereby giving socio-economic development a foothold and not just a pedestal.
Zimbabwe has been a country ravaged by war, poverty and political turmoil. The saga continues to evolve as old-world political regimes are confronted with the exuberance of youth who seek change. The youth demographic in Africa has one of the highest adoption rates of mobile technology as evidenced by the surge of users on the African social networking platform Mxit.com. Everything from banking to scheduling visits to the local clinic is powered by mobile technologies, thereby enabling all aspects of African society.
There was a Gala held in honor of the Prime Minister’s visit where Chris Dalton had a chance to speak, along with the CEO of Luster products and Congressman Bobby Rush. In attendance from Acquity Group was Tony Bailey, Vice President of Content Management practice and an avid follower of African politics. According to Tony, the event was a great for understanding the impact technology has on the political climate of Zimbabwe and the overall adoption of mobile technology with Africa. Tony was able to engage the Prime Minister one-on-one with questions only months prior to a potential Presidential election – a rare opportunity.
The black-tie event hosted a number of important political and business leaders from around the Midwest. Chris Dalton’s speech at the Gala highlighted the continued need for technology adoption and innovation that must start with education and will eventually lead to a prosperous outcome for the people of Zimbabwe.
Read more about the Prime Minister’s visit here.