So we’ve been developing DukaPress for about half a year now. During almost the whole of that time we faced a unique problem. A problem probably faced by other developers like us: people building software but not based in the so called “developed countries” (which in most cases translates to Europe and North America).
See, even though we realise that DukaPress is attractive to anyone who uses WordPress, we have to make it usable by us, who are based in Kenya and live within Kenyan realities. This is a challenge. Let me share a story to illustrate this.
Over the last two weeks or so, we have been trying to build a Fedex shipping module for DukaPress. The Fedex API in almost all cases is elegant and powerful; easy to use too. However, it seems that this API was built with little regard to developers in countries like Kenya.
What do I mean? Well, for example, Fedex has support for intra-country shipping in only a few countries of this world. Kenya (and India, too) is not one of these countries. This means that if you use the Fedex API to calculate the shipping charges of sending an item within Kenya, it will return an error. Fair enough, right? One just has to build a solution that excludes intra-country shipping within the countries that are not supported, right? Yes, in theory. But Fedex has no list of any sort of which countries do or do not support intra-country shipping, making it very difficult to build a working solution. An online shop owner based in Kenya therefore has a very difficult time making the Fedex API work for him – it will give (seemingly unfixable) errors whenever Kenyan customers buy from his shop.
Another example is the use of ZIP codes. The Fedex API uses ZIP codes to calculate distances between two places and therefore calculate the shipping charges. Places like Kenya do not have ZIP codes (only postal codes). On the ground, the people at Fedex Kenya use Kenyan towns to calculate how much it would cost to send things to/fro Kenya. The Fedex API is pretty unclear on what to do in this situation.
Now, Fedex is just a recent example but this unique challenge is felt in almost everything that we build for DukaPress. If we were based in, say, then UK building DukaPress from there we would never come across any of these challenges. It seems that, in general, little thought is paid to places like Kenya….but why? On one hand it does indeed make some sense to ignore us because we cannot yet match revenues from elsewhere. But it still feels wrong to me. In Fedex’s case, they have an office in Kenya, why not make their API work as well in Kenya as elsewhere?
What do you make of this situation?