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Monday, Nov 11th

App creator talks about his Lobola Calculator

App creator talks about his Lobola Calculator.

Lobola* is a traditional and unique custom of African culture. So what happens when a software developer, specialising in mobile app development, decides to make this unique traditional experience 'smart'? He creates an app of course.

South African born Robert Matsaneng launched his Lobola Calculator app in October last year, but for the past two weeks the app has received a lot of attention with some people loving it and others not so much.

Matsaneng spoke to ITWeb Africa's deputy editor Simnikiwe Mzekandaba about his 'unconventional' mobile app.

SIMNIKIWE MZEKANDABA: Can you tell me about your Lobola Calculator app?

ROBERT MATSANENG: Well the app basically gives an estimate of how much dowry you would be worth, it is intended to be playful and give a roundabout figure for anyone above the age of 18. It is quite comical in its presentation with a monetary value also represented as cows.

SIMNIKIWE MZEKANDABA: How did you come up with the idea of a Lobola app?

ROBERT MATSANENG: I developed the app for mainly laughs actually - I think it's a fun exercise and that people who are not part of the culture can get a taste and perhaps want to know more about the culture. I did not develop it to replace the culture in any way.

SIMNIKIWE MZEKANDABA: When was the app launched?

ROBERT MATSANENG: October 2014.

SIMNIKIWE MZEKANDABA: And how has the response been like?

ROBERT MATSANENG: I have gotten quite a great response actually. More than I expected. Most people love the idea/concept. Some people don't like it at all, though but they form about a quarter of the feedback.

SIMNIKIWE MZEKANDABA: So how many people have downloaded the app so far?

ROBERT MATSANENG: As of 26 January, I have 32,000 downloads. That's just on Android Playstore without a tablet version.

SIMNIKIWE MZEKANDABA: Is the app only accessible only in South Africa - or is across the continent?

ROBERT MATSANENG: The app is accessible to anyone worldwide who runs on Android.

SIMNIKIWE MZEKANDABA: When are you planning to make it available on other operating systems?

ROBERT MATSANENG: I'm currently busy on the iPhone version and hopefully it will be available in 3-4 weeks.

SIMNIKIWE MZEKANDABA: Is the information the app requests confidential?

ROBERT MATSANENG: Yes it is. No user data is saved internally or externally.

SIMNIKIWE MZEKANDABA: The app is free - so how are you going to make money from it?

ROBERT MATSANENG: Hahahahaha! Reality is that as an Android developer in South Africa I cannot register as a Google Merchant which means that I or any other android developer cannot sell apps on the Playstore - so we have to get creative with our business models and strategy.

SIMNIKIWE MZEKANDABA: What are your plans for the future?

ROBERT MATSANENG: Big things, looking at what is happening in African tech right now the app industry is still in its infancy stage where developers and companies are still trying to understand what local users want and how they engage with apps. With that being said, we are preparing to make some really bold moves and shake things up a bit, have users use local (Africa) apps so that money generated can circulate here at home. Producing apps in an African context but with a universal reach and appeal allows us to directly cater for our people and also push African pride. All our products at Digital Peppa have this strategy in mind. For instance take our uMoya app - it is a mobile application (IOS, Android, and Blackberry) that allows your church to communicate information directly to your congregation through their cellular phones in real time!

Not only is a fantastic communication tool but it also allows your church to access significant savings on printing and SMS costs. By reducing these up to 50% your return on investment far outweighs the cost of the solution. Check it out at http://www.umoyachurchapp.com:90/. We are very able to implement it across Africa.

*Lobola is an age-old tradition where a man pays the family of his fiancé for her hand in marriage.

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