Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Clone Wars Interlude: Impress Me.

103188707_ee881f23f1 I seriously need someone to impress me.I mean impress me like the iPhone impressed me. The original iPhone as well as its two successors, are half-baked pieces of plastic with horrible battery lives, no user replaceable parts, a dearth of standard cell phone features like SMS receipt notification, horrible cameras, inaccessible storage, meaningless bluetooth, and completely locked in software. And yet the first time I touched the interface, I was sold by its usability, the beauty and simplicity of its interface and the power of the app store. I was impressed.

Impress me like the netbook phenomenon. A fully functional laptop for less than fifty thousand naira that could do what 90% of the populace actually need computers for with up to 10.5 hours of battery life in some cases. This is the computer for the ordinary Nigerian with our power problems, constant mobility and simple computing needs.

Impress me like MapQuest.com impressed me. The first time I went online and could generate turn by turn instructions in a strange city just by providing my starting point and destination. Now the likes of NavTeq and Google are impressing me even more by making that mapping technology available on my cell phone for live turn by turn directions.

Amazon.com impressed me. Bezos and company did not just create a virtual store in the cloud that can provide to most people in many countries almost any consumer item they can order. They created a supply chain masterpiece that became so efficient they can ship many goods for free, and offer that same supply chain system to other businesses for order fulfilment.

Ushahidi is awesome in providing a simple scalable crisis mapping technology that is disrupting long established systems and providing information for rapid action and intervention where needed. It is currently Africa’s foremost technology offering to the world. ZipCar is intriguing. A car available to you anytime, anywhere without need to actually own or maintain one, that you can leave anywhere and pay low fees to use? Intriguing.

Skype is so cool in providing a means for free internet calls across the planet, then low-cost calls to more conventional phone lines – including video. Of course all that is dependent on the cost and quality of your internet service, but still it impresses. Twitter impressed me by presenting an ultra-simplistic service that has spawned an astonishingly vast number of emergent properties and services that is the envy and model of other online entities large and small.

Impress me like Aero Contractors impressed me with their highly sophisticated use of eCommerce to generate cash flow for their business during their times of difficulty (whether they were successful is another issue entirely). Impress me like www.DokitaSays.com. An organically growing medical resource that has content that caters to the medical needs of local Nigerians providing enough information for people to make informed decisions about their health and healthcare. That is serious crowdsourcing and should be copied by the lawyers and other such professions. Academic Earth makes me applaud their collecting the best free academic content from around the world into one place where I can get it and actually learn. I may not get a degree, but I can get an education.

Impress me like my ISP (and all the rest of them) has FAILED to impress me in not providing an online payment mechanism for renewing subscriptions. For goodness’ sake, the internet is their business right?

I have gathered these examples of hardware, software, technologies, and technologically delivered services (mostly) from abroad to say something I have said in a variety of ways already. I am convinced that a Nigerian somewhere is going to create a solution that uniquely addresses something in our Nigerian environment in a way that will impact our society the way that the advent of GSM did. GSM and similar services are infrastructure services and they are key and fundamental. However they are the equivalent of highways. They are necessary for transportation and to engender commerce and communication. Like the expected influx of fat bandwidth pipes over the next few months, we should relish their presence, but that celebration should be quickly tempered by a desire for places to visit. That’s the whole point of a highway. The real excitement comes from what is at the end of the road. So I seek the applications built on top of all that infrastructure that will fundamentally disrupt the way we do things in this country.

I know someone, somewhere is working on something that will do that. Probably in Ajegunle. Maybe in Lekki. Certainly in Surulere. At UNILAG. ABU. Covenant University. FUTO. UNN. An Andreesen. A Page and Brin. A Shuttleworth, a Jobs, a Gates, a Hewlett and a Packard.

Go ahead. Impress me.


If you know of a tech solution that provides genuine value to the lives of Nigerians, why not post it in the comments here or Tweet about it with the hashtag #ImpressedMe

Photo of impressive building in Prague design from Jemil75 at Flickr.