Last week Sunday, we had our annual thanksgiving service in my church. The Pastor mentioned three categories of people who should come out to give special thanks, the third category was for people who had started businesses or gotten married in 2016. Much to my surprise, this was the largest group! It was confusing at first because I thought, how is it that there were so many new business ventures in a year marked with so much economic downturn? Looking back though, it does make sense because recession tends to drive entrepreneurship and innovation.
In Nigeria, this is not any less true. This year, Nigeria’s unemployment rate hit 13.3% – the highest it has been in three years – and this number is forecasted to go even higher in 2017. So naturally, as you can imagine, with fewer jobs and opportunities, people begin to think of new ways to make a living and this leads to new businesses, niche products and services, almost all of which must be enabled by technology. This is not to say that recession enables technology adoption though, it’s more a case of our lives and businesses have become so intertwined with technology that it is almost impossible to do anything worthy of note today without leveraging technology in some shape or form.
For example, I have interacted with more small businesses this year than in any year prior and more than 90% of their marketing or referrals have happened via social media.I am not talking anything fancy; just a combination of WhatApp, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.
That said, innovation is not something that depends on technology per se, but technology is a force too impactful to be ignored. Imagine a day without your phone or worse without internet? The sheer capability of the technology all around us is immense and so as you can imagine most business innovation these days have to incorporate technology either as part of the business strategy or driven by necessity. There is a follow up question of strategy and effectiveness but that is a matter for a follow up article.
2016 has seen significant advancements which have also contributed to this – the steadily dropping cost of data services in Nigeria coupled with increased accessibility to smart phones and powerful, low cost tablets have greatly reduced the entry point for launching eCommerce products and services. Because of the combination of these factors, eCommerce in its more basic form no longer necessarily means you need to invest in an eCommerce site, any small business can get started with an Instagram handle, very good pictures, a mobile number, email address and bank account!
Based on all of this, it can be said that the recession has contributed to increased use and adoption of technology but this is not without its drawbacks. There is also in parallel an increased proliferation of fraudsters, malware, spyware, ransomware and social engineering making online safety and common sense has never been more important. Habitual over-sharing, understanding the background services running on your devices and being able to decide which apps and websites to use are no longer things which should be left to “the IT guys” but everyone should have a basic online safety appreciation crash course.
To wrap up, 2016 has been a great year for technology the world over and in Nigeria, there is an increase in the number of technology startups and services which seek to compete with global services such as Oga Taxi with Uber, hotels.ng with Jovago, full blown online malls like Jiji, Jumia and Konga to mention a few competing with the likes of Amazon, eBay etc. The Nigerian market and consumer are huge technology adopters with over 50% of the population using a smartphone. This trend will increase with earning power and stiffer competition between ODMs, telecommunications companies and ISVs with or without the recession.
That said, I will like to share my top five favorite apps and services from 2016. These apps and services are rated both from a relevance to everyday life and usability standpoint. I need to of course mention at this point that these are my views and they do not represent the views of my employer or an endorsement of the product or company, they are just my views as a consumer.
5.Dial a Doctor – this is a value-added service running off the Airtel network. It connects subscribers to specialist doctors and general practitioners without hefty consultancy fees of fancy hospitals. Affordable and accessible!
4.Hotels.ng – looking for a quick weekend getaway with the family at a good price or with good deals, this is my go to service.
3.CamCard and CamScanner – scanning apps for business cards and documents. I receive a ridiculous amount of business cards and can never seem to find them when I need them. CamCard helps me scan and save the contact information to my phone immediately while CamScanner allows me to scan and email documents when I am away from the office.
2.Uber – they awesome service 95% of the time with the occasional rude or unserious driver and my car is so thankful.
1.TED –TED is an app for a nonprofit which allows people from all walks of life and with all kinds of interests share ideas.