South Africa’s app developers have upped their game

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South Africa’s app developers have upped their game
South Africa’s app developers have upped their game
South Africa’s app developers have upped their game
South Africa’s app developers have upped their game

The MTN Business App of the Year Awards is in full swing. The intensive judging process that concluded last week will culminate with the winners, in various categories, being announced in Johannesburg on 11 October 2018.

The judging panel, made up of business leaders and experts, including previous winners of the MTN Business App of the Year, was unanimous in its view that the quality of the entries has improved remarkably.

“The winning formula that I was looking for was an app that is unique and offers something different. At the same time the app needs to be marketable, must provide a solution to a real challenge, it needs to be commercially viable, and must work when it is launched – if it’s not already available on the market,” said Arno Von Helden, Executive Head: Forex Solutions, Standard Bank, whose team took top honours at last year’s awards with their Shyft app.

Asked about trends that emerged this year, Von Helden said that many of the apps submitted were designed to address online identity management. “We also saw a lot of education-type apps that either offer direct tutoring in a game-like manner, and apps that connect tutors to students, as well as those that connect the market place for students. Another trend that came out strongly was business-to-consumer apps that connect consumers to service providers of their choice,” said Von Helden.


Clint O’Shea, a gaming enthusiast, concurred. He runs Zombiegamer, a website and gaming events company, as well as Cape Town-based TGN Racing Simulators. O’Shea said that one of the common themes this year was that the solutions were customised to solve the country’s unique socio-economic challenges.

“Previously, the bulk of the entries focused more on creating IoT ecosystems and finding ways to make this applicable to our local conditions. This year, the entries are more grounded, and are mainly aimed at providing working solutions in the areas of education and agriculture,” said O’Shea.

Annette Muller, Founder of Flexy, a new online platform that enables companies to work with an on-demand workforce from anywhere in the world, said that though she was impressed by the improved quality of entries, she believes that there is still room for app developers and innovators to deepen collaboration.

“The app development industry has grown substantially over the past few years. I believe that mentorship and collaboration are the elements that are missing in this space. If app developers would be open to more collaboration, they can leverage their strengths and unlock further innovation,” said Muller.

She encouraged app developers who are still hesitant about submitting entries to the MTN Business App of the Year Awards to refine their solutions for next year’s competition.

“You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Not only will you be exposed to many other contenders throughout the process, but the evaluation process is equivalent to getting free consulting. This is because it compels you to prepare your idea, think about the hard questions that you don’t ask yourself, and receive feedback that enables you to refine your idea,” said Muller.

Karabo Songo, Group CEO of House of Brave, said the awards represent a platform to unearth and celebrate the real rock stars in innovation. “The most crucial thing for me is that the MTN Business App of the Year affords us the opportunity to get behind the businesses and support them – great ideas require the whole ecosystem to make them work.”

He added that he was pleasantly surprised by the level of innovation that came through, however, he said there is still room to beef up the entrepreneurial training behind the apps.

Ellen Fischat, Co-founder of Inner Cycle and Story Room, said the beauty about the MTN Business App of the Year Awards is that it mirrors the developments that are taking place in the broader innovation and mobile technology space.

“The entries have been incredible. This shows that South Africans have picked up their game. The solutions are innovative and come from unexpected places,” said Fischat.

Cindy Beets, Head of Marketing and Public Relations at Lightstone agreed. “This is the most exciting time of the year for me as I get to meet the contestants and interact with what they have created. I am fascinated by the technology they develop, and that a number of people can converge in a room and come up with this amazing solution that solves real-life problems. It’s wonderful to be a part of that and to be given an opportunity to judge their work,” said Beets.

Entries in the following categories were evaluated:

  • Best Enterprise App
  • Best Consumer App
  • Best Incubated App
  • Most Innovative App
  • Best Breakthrough Developer
  • Best Gaming App (mobile gaming and gamification)
  • Best Educational App
  • Best ‘Woman in STEM’ Developer (in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics)
  • Best ‘South African’ App
  • Best Agricultural App
  • Best Health App
  • Best Financial App

Winners of the 2018 MTN Business App of the Year Awards will be announced at a gala event on 11 October. The overall winner will win a trip to Silicon Valley valued at R200 000.

Since its inception, the MTN Business App of the Year Awards has discovered a number of apps that are commonly used today. These include SnapScan, the payment app that emerged as the overall winner in 2013; WumDrop, an on-demand delivery start-up that scooped the Best Enterprise App and was the Best Overall App in 2015; Intergreatme, an identity management platform and HearZA, a screening app that allows users to check for hearing deficiencies.

Edited by Daniëlle Kruger
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