With more and more people becoming techno-savvy, smartphones have proven to be a revolutionary trend that is here to stay. While some lament about the excessive use of these devices in today’s digital age, this booming mobile industry has inspired a few to seize opportunities as innovators in the creation of mobile applications coined by the hash tag generation as apps.
One of those visionaries is Itumeleng Garebatshabe, a local developer whose apps in local languages continue to gain popularity both locally and internationally.
This homegrown project, which is aimed at cultural preservation, is designed to assist in the learning of Botswana’s indigenous languages. So far, ItumelengÔÇöthrough his company Intellegere Media, has developed apps on learning Setswana, Kalanga and Sekgalagadi.
Speaking on the inspiration behind the apps, he mentions that there is a need to make local languages relevant in the digital sphere, “It is essential to preserve our culture, even through technology. Parents complain that children don’t know their languages so these apps are meant to help in that regard. We also need to break communication barriers amongst ourselves as Batswana and take pride in our diversity besides just being learned in one or two languages.”
To date, these fine tuned language apps have been downloaded over 2.5 million times. According to Itumeleng, the idea of exporting elements of our culture makes the country highly accessible, “We have to make our mother tongues fashionable to the world out there, instead of solely being eloquent in their languages,” says the BOTA-accredited application developer.
Recently, Itumeleng and his mentee Keneilwe Mohutsiwa travelled to South Africa for an interview on North West FM where they talked preservation of Setswana using mobile apps. “This is undoubtedly one of the highlights of creating these apps as it shows our efforts are getting international recognition,” delights Garebatshabe.
Describing his creative process as erratic due to his hyperactive brain, Itumeleng says it is essentially to solve problems using technology. “It starts with an idea, research then development and putting out the idea to the world.”
However, he notes that creating these apps comes with its challenges, “the major challenge is additional resources and more “skilled” developers because now the datasets are growing so we need more people. Besides data entry, we haven’t managed to get linguists on the project because not everyone sees the bigger picture. You know money is always a challenge but we are excelling with no budget,” revealed Garebatshabe.
“‘Nna ke lekula.’ It’s a pleasure to be in Botswana and getting a chance learning this sweet language,” enthused one Indian native who reviewed the app on Google Play. Gregory McVittie also commented, “Good app, l’m using it on a daily basis. It is really improving my Setswana.”
With such good reviews, Intellegere Media is surely destined to become one of Botswana’s technology innovation hubs.