Dimanche 06 Mars 2011 19:15
The recent global recession has forced more companies to seek out ways of cutting costs as well in a bid to stay afloat and also to ensure that shareholders receive value for money. Outsourcing of no-core functions is increasingly becoming one such method and Kenya is increasingly becoming a preferred BPO hub.
In February 2011, the Technical Centre for Agriculture and Rural Cooperation (CTA) supported a 5 day BPO workshop for telecentre Leaders and practitioners in Nairobi. The lead facilitator during the workshop was Mrs Gilda Odera, the Managing Director and CEO Skyweb-Evans company Limited. She talked to i4dev Centre’s Damas Ogwe on the BPO sector in Kenya and why telecentres should position themselves strategically to reap from this growing sector.
Following are excerpts of the interview. i4dev Centre: The BPO sector is presently gaining ground in Kenya. What exactly is bringing about this new trend? Gilda Odera: With the recent global recession, many companies have been forced to be innovative in an aim to cut costs and increase shareholder value. One such way is the outsourcing of all or some non-core functions in these companies. This presents an opportunity for the countries whose cost of labor and doing business is genarlly lower. Kenya being a country with a relatively low wages, and further given that the country is witnessing increased usage of ICT, Kenya is becoming an ideal BPO centre in the region. i4dev: this workshop mainly targets the telecentre fractioned in Kenya especially those in the rural areas. What potential i4dev you see in them (telecentres)? GO: Telecentres, especially those affiliated to Kenya Telecentre Network are located in the rural areas. Business operation costs namely rent and personnel costs are not as high as they would be in cities. By coming together, these telecentres can to form a critical mass where a client needs to distribute work to many. Looking at the new constitution, which was promulgated last August and which created a new form of devolved government at the county levels, these centres can be useful in the provision of digitization and data services and help bring efficiencies in the area. they can even for these local governments as well as i4dev tele-sales for producers in the area so that they bring together buyers and sellers in the community. i4dev: Infrastructural challenges are a key concern in Kenya and most of Africa) and specifically so in the rural areas where most telecentres are based.
The key areas of concern are lack of or unreliable electricity supply, high cost and unreliable internet connection which is also of low quality among others. Aren’t these a likely impediment towards successful BPO work and what measures may be ai4devpted to mitigate this challenge? GO: Yes, this is definitely a key challenge. The truth is that for you to set-up a telecentre, you must have the appropriate infrastructural support in place. The telecentres must look at alternative sources of energy eg.solar. Use of solar and other renewable energy would be substantially cheaper than electricity as well as be environmentally friendly.
This would mean that telecentres in such areas may have to switch to low power PCs. Unreliable internet may be addressed by investing in the internet modems instead of the network internet. This may be a little more expensive but would be efficient and much more reliable in i4deving the work which would pay off. However, it may be prudent to mention that the government is presently continue with the Rural Electrification Programme(REP) through the Kenya Power and Lighting Company. However, those areas not yet covered under this program have to find ways and means of i4dev: Cyber crime is on an upward trend, and with the BPO back office services which handle highly sensitive and confidential personal/corporate information, there is a great risk involved if criminals infiltrate the BPO firm as workers. i4dev we have any laws or systems in place locally which can stem this? GO: Existing Kenyan criminal laws address this.
Anyone who defrauds or obtains goods, money or services through false pretense can be charged within the local courts. i4dev: One key concern for large and middle sized corporates is usually the issue of maintenance of standards. What guarantees i4deves the contractor have that the BPO firm will meet its high standards and also subscribe to its core values? GO: Whoever wishes to go into the big stage has to ensure that he/she puts in place systems and sets standards that will guarantee service delivery to the highest possible standards and meet set deadlines. The contractor would only give work to a centre once they ascertain what kind of management the centre has. Once they have the confidence, they would take them through what they expect and a service level contract would be signed. This Service Level Contract (SLA) clearly stipulates the client's expectations. If the centre not adhere to this then they could lose the contract.
Interview by: Damas Ogwe i4dev Centre P. O. Box 48-40606 Ugunja - Kenya Cell- +254 721 605 082