Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Elevating The Internet Industry: 3 Things We Need

Africa_thumb Last week, we had the East/West Twitter Chat with Internet entrepreneurs from different parts of Africa and the Diaspora. You can find the transcript here, starting from the “2:01 PM” mark. The intense 90 minute session may not have quite fulfilled its mission, but it did provide valuable lessons. One of them is the lack of, and great need for, greater community among Africa's technology practitioners - whatever regional scope they may choose to exist in. Kenya has the iHub. Conferences and Unconferences are events where for a few brief moments like-minded individuals gather and share ideas and make connections. There are a few tenuous connections revolving around a few blogs and Twitter connections. This is not enough. I believe we need to put 3 things in place to strengthen what we are building.
First we need some kind of online technology business journal where our experts can contribute their experiences and ideas about running Internet businesses in Nigeria. This could also some news content to keep us informed of what is actually happening that’s relevant to our industry. It would definitely have a section that deals with all the necessary, but uninteresting stuff such as SME Toolkit covers, but more relevant to technology business and Nigeria.
Secondly, we need an online forum where ideas can be discussed, questions asked and answered and help sought and offered. This could even be the basis for a Nigerian or West Coast iHub to match the one on the East.
Lastly, we need a directory of technology efforts and businesses that serves as a repository of info on old and new entrants, provides publicly obtainable statistics and information such as services, technologies, the team, and APIs. It could even be a system that provides information about how secure the site is, what the privacy policies are, mobile accessibility and several other useful bits of info. It could also serve as a basis for some kind of community effort to advertise or at least showcase products.
There are many systems that have bits and pieces of the three things I outlined above. The examples are all over the internet such as ProgrammableWeb, Stackoverflow, CrunchBase, O’reilly Radar, and a myriad of technology and product-focused forums. However, a unified solution focused on African or at least Nigerian Internet business would be a valuable resource and one that does not exist today, at least not that I am aware of. If there is I would love someone to point it out to me. At first it looked to me that StartupsNigeria would be that kind of resource, however it still remains in closed beta and it is unclear if or when it will fill that need.
With the abundance of free and easy resources on the Internet nowadays, it would be very easy to build the kind of unified resource. Keeping it running will of course be much harder, but will, in the long term, be worth the effort. I think most of the effort would be in getting it started with and building up enough momentum to make it self-sustaining. I, for one, would be happy to contribute towards such an effort.
Any takers?
Image Courtesy of jonhardm at Flickr.com