Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Local software engineer develops a smart way to procure goods, services

A Motswana software engineer has designed an application that is bound to revolutionise how service providers interact with customers.

Intelligent Quotations, found at www.intelquotations.com, allows someone to request quotations from many suppliers at once, as well as being able to locate service providers in their locality.

“The solution is geared towards providing customers with convenience and saves them costs,” says the application’s developer, Justice William.

William explains that initially, the concept was meant for companies to post requests for quotations (RFQs) and tenders, but he realised that he could serve an even bigger market by widening the scope to include services.

The way it works is that someone who needs a service posts it at www.intelquotations.com, and the posting immediately reaches all the registered service providers in that particular service category.

Similarly, procurement officers in different companies and departments would simply post RFQs, which will reach all the registered companies that supply the required goods.

One of the challenges that William says Intelligent Quotations seeks to address is that many companies miss RFQs and tender notices placed in newspapers, while some learn of such opportunities late. If, say, an organisation like Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Board (PPADB) were to sign up for the service, all its registered companies and consultants would instantly get tender notifications for every category that they are registered for.

“We realise that we have to up our game to make sure that subscribers never miss a single tender, or receive late notification. We guarantee that if the tender scope is relevant to you, you will get notification instantly. I don’t want to put out an app that does not give people good service,” William says.

The app is set to ensure more transparency in procurement of goods and services whose monetary value allows departments not to go for tender, but simply go the route of RFQs, which has resulted in collusion between some procurement officers and suppliers to fix prices and exclude new entrants.

The app allows for both service providers and customers to rate each other, and even post testimonials. William says the idea is for service providers and customers to up their game and deal honestly with each other. He says this is honest feedback that already happens on established platforms like eBay.

The app has won the approval of the Botswana Innovation Hub. Patel Barwabatsile, manager of the Microsoft Innovation Center at the Botswana Innovation Hub, says Intelligent Quotations will be offered free software, technical support and global visibility, as well as training and virtual incubation under the BizSpark programme that supports ICT and technology innovation startups with potential to be scaled up. Barwabatsile said Botswana Innovation Hub believes the project can be easily scaled to go global, with great potential for commercialisation.

William shares the view that the project’s potential extends beyond Botswana, which he only intends to use a launch platform. Eventually, the plan is to internationalise the platform by location and language. William’s target is for the platform to be used by service providers and customers in every centre with a minimum population of 5 000 worldwide.

“Eventually,” William points out, “the app will have all the major languages that are spoken in more than one country.”

Even as it goes international, its offices, as well support and call centres will be in Botswana. William believes there is potential to create jobs for 100 developers. When it goes international, he is looking at a 50-seat call centre with three shifts to accommodate time differences.

“Once it goes big, we could reach 1000 seats in the call centre with three shifts. There is huge potential for jobs. This could be as big as Facebook,” says William.

The next step is to make the app mobile so that someone with a Smartphone can receive notifications instantly through the device without having to go online.

William, who started his career as a software engineer at Microsoft Corporation based at the company’s headquarters, was part of teams that built internationally used apps and services.

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