Saturday, January 1, 2011

2011: Rise of the Nigerian Internet

africaperspectiveToday is January 1, 2011. For the last 3 weeks, most of the blogs and online publications I read have been reviewing 2010, making predictions for 2011 or both. Webtrends Nigeria’s Sheriff Shittu even asked several of us in the Twittersphere what our predictions were.

Looking at my end of year posts at the end of 2009, I realise that I didn’t do a review of predictions, instead I did a wish list. Sadly most of those items are still not fulfilled. Not yet. No stable electricity, no real eGovernment and the election preparations are just beginning to ramp up. Having said that, many of them were always going to be multi-year things anyway so I definitely do hold out hope to see them to pass. Most importantly, I should actively participate in helping them come to pass and in 2011 I plan to play my role. I hope you’ll play yours.

However, I do want to make one wish for this new year. It’s actually a wish and a challenge at the same time: we need a Nigerian internet. Let me hasten to say that I don’t mean we need to set up a parallel network, nor do I mean that we should set up our own equivalent of the “Great Firewall of China”. What I mean is that we need to start to develop internet solutions and mobile apps that are especially relevant to our peculiar socio-economic, ethno-geographic, political, linguistic and spiritual situation.

Google and many of the other internet majors all pushed out to create products that are global in scope, but many of them did not start that way. Indeed for many of them, like Facebook, if they hadn’t first found success in addressing the needs and desires of a very specific segment of their society they would never have been in a position to scale to a larger user base.

The intriguing thing is that as the internet has broadened to encompass such as vast variety of cultures and societies, the major internet companies are now focused on localisation. The rising stars of the internet are focused on creating services that take advantage of the peculiarities of your locale. Think Yelp. GroupOn. FourSquare. All of these base their value proposition on things within a few kilometres of where people are. Ushahidi’s power is in its ability to generate data from local events. Google is building localised versions of their sites and you can do searches of sites in Nigeria alone.

We are here and we know our society and its needs better than anyone else. before we look outwards, we absolutely need to look inwards building things that the man in Lagos, the woman in Lokoja and the child in Lafiaji can absolutely relate to.

As we created Nollywood, we now need to create the “Ninternet”. There are already efforts ongoing to create this and just by being Nigerians, even when we clone stuff we put in our own twists. Still we need to create things that appeal to the mainstream rather than just tech enthusiasts like me.So I keep an eye on sites like because they are headed in the right direction.

The thing is, if we don’t do it Google, Facebook and their ilk are already muscling in. TechCrunch is already painting a big fat target on Africa. If we don’t move now we will find ourselves overrun by a deluge of “invaders” bringing things that are of real value, but which lock us out and further export our wealth overseas.


Image Source: Times Atlas