Parminder Vir

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DIARY OF SOCIAL MEDIA WEEK, LAGOS

From 18-22nd February, I had the privilege of participating in Social Media Week, Lagos. Produced by Dragon Africa and AFRIKA 21 and led by Obi Asika, this was the first time Social Media Week had come to Africa! The co-producers put together an awesome programme with over 100 sessions, across Lagos starting from 9 am and going well into the early hours of the morning with music and dancing. Social Media Week Lagos brought together thought leaders, creative’s, entrepreneurs and everyday citizens from Nigeria - and throughout the continent and the diaspora- to explore how people and organizations are connecting to share new ideas and information.

This is my diary of the some of the incredible people I met, thought leadership sessions I attended and experienced the transformation of a city with social media. 

17th February: Landed at Lagos airport and was amazed by the speedy processing of immigration only to be stopped at the last minute by one official asking for my Yellow Fever card! If you are travelling into Nigeria, this document, as I was to learn, is more important it seems than your passport. Luckily I had remembered to pack it and was allowed into the country!

18th February:I have spent all day in meetings; consequently have missed the opening and many of the sessions during the day. But at 6pm, I head for Four Points Hotel for The Afropolitans Landing Reception on the roof top with stunning view of Lagos below.

The place was buzzing with young Nigerians and diaspora who have come for the Social Media Week. I was not able to attend the session on Afropolitans but hear that it was so well attended with great presentations from the panellists.

Afropolitans are young visionaries from Africa and the diaspora, armed with new media as their tools, are charting new paths and opportunities for themselves. Challenging perceptions, they provide the global community with a firsthand look at contemporary African art and culture. These young “Afropolitans,” reach beyond their borders to connect and collaborate with their contemporaries around the world. They were responsible for organising “Meet The Afropolitans” panel an invitation to experience the next wave in African music, art and culture as well as meet some of the creative thinkers using social media and digital tools to provide the world with an alternative view of Africa.

The panel led a spirited discussion on the social web, digital media and culture in Africa. Who are the emerging thought leaders? How are they using digital media to re-image African in their own likeness? Who should you follow on twitter to be on the pulse of what’s next in music, art and culture from the continent?

A photography installation of portraits of emerging African artists and cultural curators by award winning Sierra Leonian photographer Delphine Fawundu and live mixing of the latest sounds from the continent including Kwaito, Afrobeats, Township Tech and Hip Life was provided by DJ Frei of AFRIKA21

The roof top reception continued the discussions with investors and technology entrepreneurs mingling over cocktails in the warmth of Lagos. This is the new face of Africa.

Echo VC Partners: www.echovc.comVenture Capitalists are coming to Nigeria and I met one from Echo VC Partners, a Technology Venture Capital managed by Eghosa Omoigui. He is young, smart and out of Silicon Valley, with considerable deal experience under his belt. He tells me of several India technology companies he has made investments in and returns from. They have offices in Palo Alto, Singapore and looking at opening one in Lagos.

In Africa and SE Asia, they are focusing on the underserved seed/early-stage venture and growth capital technology investment opportunities. Using their Silicon Valley insights and experience, along with knowledge as an amplifier, aim to fund and develop strategic platforms, incubate local high potential growth companies and help develop mentorship opportunities and local networks. Goal is to add significant value to, and grow, the tech-based entrepreneurial ecosystems across the continent(s).

 My Africa IsExposing a balanced side of Africa, Nosarieme Garrick, ExecutiveProducer. Nosarieme is a young filmmaker, producing documentaries, telling stories. My Africa Is - a documentary series taking you on a journey across the continent through the eyes of an insider. The series will follow change-makers in various cities across sub-Saharan Africa – they are young, doing some really cool things, and starting a new conversation. The first season of My Africa Is will be out on the web in 2013.

During our brief conversation, I am reminded of my documentary film making days when like her I worked with African directors and producers to tell their stories from the inside. Over the years I worked with talented directors and producers like Gaston Kabore, Pedro Pimenta, Marion Bartolomeu, programmed a season of films by women directors. It was easier than to persuade international broadcasters like BBC and Channel 4 to invest in these stories. Today, technology does make it easier for producers like Nosarieme Garrick to make films but you still need funding and this is where the African broadcasters have to change their business models and begin to commission more original content from talented producers like her for the local market. Everyone will tell you local content sells, it drives advertising revenues, and the consumer wants to see morel local content. But producers need to be supported with cash investment and the right technical facilities.

Bank CEO, Banking on Change: Sustainable Banking in Nigeria, BIT Hub, Porches CentreThis session was designed to engage and stimulate a stirring dialogue, to explore the role of social media and technology for banks as a:

  • Catalyst: What is the link between social media and sustainable banking?
  • Platform for Growth: How can technology help “bank the unbanked” and drive market expansion?
  • Communication Tool: With a high rate of “twitter quitters” amongst banks, can social media really deliver value for sustainable banking?

The distinguished panelists included: Mr. Bisi Onasanya, Managing Director of First Bank, Mr. Ladi Balogun, Managing Director of FCMB, Mr. Chika Nwobi, Managing Partner of L5Labs and Ms. Modupe Ladipo, Chief Executive Officer of EFinA.

The session was moderated by Ms. Carey Bohjanen, Managing Director of Sustainable Finance Advisory. Carey works with financial institutions worldwide on their sustainability strategies, helped develop the sector-led Nigerian Sustainable Banking Principles and advises the Central Bank of Nigeria on sustainability.

The Porches Centre was full for this event, young Nigerians eager to engage with the banking community, understand their social media challenges and share how the banks could improve their social media engagement strategies. The mobile device is the driver for banking on the move. The entire panelist use Face Book, Twitter and other social media to keep in touch with their customers. They provide a lot of their services online which is accessed via the mobile.  I am still to embrace mobile banking in the UK having only just embraced online banking. During the session, I heard how farmers are using mobile for transactions, pay their bills, and receive payments into their accounts, decreasing the need to go into a local branch. While Kenya may have invented MPesa, the Nigerian banking is also innovating with mobile banking. Another example of local solutions for local challenges. Great session with incredible Q&A.

I was particularly interested in the work of EFInA – Enhancing Financial Innovation & Access, a financial sector development organization that promotes financial inclusion in Nigeria. EFInA is funded by the UK Government’s Department for International Development (DFID) and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. EFInA focuses on four key pillars – Research, Innovation, Advocacy and Capacity Building. I briefly met the Executive Director and CEO of Efina, Ms Modupe Ladipo with over 20 years financial services experience in investment banking. Her mission is to make Nigeria finance system work better, especially for the poor. She is succeeding.

Finally to the Social Media Week Launch Party where I met the Nokia team who are one the Global sponsors for SMW and for Lagos. The Director has just flown in and over dinner, she tells why Nigeria is important for Nokia. For the middle class elite, Nokia Asha is the leading mobile hand set in Nigeria. This bright device of lite Smartphone’s makes it easier than ever to get online, stay in touch and have fun with music, apps and games. Nokia Asha gives the users all their favourite social networks including; Face Book, Twitter, Email, chat, SMS. For the price sensitive Nigeria, Nokia rates for data is cheaper than other networks, gives fast internet connection and increased browser speed. The thousands of Apps, Games and Music some pre-loaded and others available for download is driving the Nigeria games and music industry.

To innovate and create for the local market needs, Nokia has set up the Nokia Research Center, Nairobi (NRC Nairobi) which focuses on understanding the needs of the African mobile phone user and creates concepts and visions to fulfil these needs. The concepts are built into prototypes and pilots and then field tested. See http://research.nokia.com/page/4820

Everyone  in Lagos is talking about Whatsup App Messenger is a Smartphone messenger available for Nokia, iPhone, Blackberry, and Android phones. Whatsup App uses 3G or WiFi (when available) to message with friends and family. Users switch from SMS to Whatsup App to send and receive messages at no cost! This is a direct challenge to Blackberry BBM, one of the key reasons for the 150% growth of the Blackberry in Nigeria, after Nokia, this is the most popular hand held device.

Following this conversation late into the night and with loud music, I return to my room and did some further Google research about the impact of Nokia and discover they have unveiled two new devices - Lumia 720 and the Lumia 520. The 720 is a mid-range phone and the 520 is a low-end phone. The 520 will go on sale at about $180 while the 720 will go for around $330.

Here alos are some mind blowing statistics from Mobile Web West Africa 2012 about the impact of Mobile and social media in Africa. Source: http://www.technesstivity.com/2012/04/facts-and-stats-mobile-web-west-africa-2012

  • 70 percent of Internet users in Africa are mobile. Mobile is 3.5 percent of Africa’s GDP
  • Nokia remains dominant in Nigeria while BlackBerry is seeing growth
  • Nigeria makes up 32% of downloaded BlackBerry apps in Africa. BlackBerry Curve 8250 is RIM’s best selling phone in Nigeria
  • In South Africa, 39 percent of emails sent and received are by mobile phone
  • 60 percent of Google searches in Nigeria are mobile
  • 65 percent of mobile internet users download stuff
  • There are 21 million mobile phones in Ghana. That’s a penetration rate of over 80%
  • Nigeria has an estimated number of 2million Twitter users. Facebook stands at 4.1million
  • Opera Mini is the most downloaded app in Nigeria. 10.48million downloads. 90 percent of mobile web surfing in Nigeria is done via Opera Mini
  • 61 percent of views on BBC’s mobile site are from Nigeria. 61 out of the 35% international views
  • Facebook has 90 percent of its Nigerian users accessing it via mobile

Young Africa like young India and other emerging economies is leap frogging technology and are a way head of the curve - Africans are consuming content on the move, in ways that developed market media and creative industries are following the consumer.  

This was just the first day of the Social Media Week!

19th February

 How Social Media can help create Leaders at BIT Porches Centre This was an incredibly informative and stimulating panel discussion. It was hosted by the Pan-African civil society organization Africa 2.0 in partnership with Social Media Week Lagos.

Sadly the Former President of Nigeria and Chairman of the Africa 2.0 Advisory Board, H.E. Olusegun Obasanjo was not able to attend due to illness. Other speakers included Tonye Cole the CEO of Sahara Energy and chapter head of Africa 2.0 Nigeria, Uche Pedro, the Managing Director and Founder of premier entertainment, fashion and lifestyle website BellaNajija.com. This session was moderated by award-winning journalist and Social Media Week co-producer Nkiru Asika. The central theme of the session was how to leverage social media tools to move Africa forward.

Tonye gave a brief background to Africa 2.0 Nigeria. Its motto is “Be the change you want to see”. Africa 2.0 came about because young people all over Africa were complaining about the lack of leadership. Over 200 young people from 38 African countries gathered in Mombasa, Kenya and produced a manifesto about the key areas where they want to see change. The Advisory Board of Africa 2.0 is mix of young people and more established activists who have pledged to take the vision forward and make it happen at Government level. Africa 2.0 is a technology term, upgrade and reflect the change young Africans want to see and make it happen. Through this forum they are moving away from “them” to “us”, it’s our problem and our solutions. Their vision is to be “significant catalyst of accelerated and sustainable growth on the African continent”.

This Pan African initiative allows people to link up with others across Africa, tap into the energy, new insights, innovation, learn and share ideas from other countries. Social media is charting a new course for development. There has been a major explosion over the past two years and campaigns like Africa 2.0 are using social media to push their message to the wider society.

Uche Pedro, a young entrepreneur who launched her lifestyle website BellaNajiija.com spoke passionately about supporting young entrepreneurs and how with right use of social media you can build small businesses. Nigerians she said are born social networkers. We need to build our own national social networks and not be dependent on those coming from mainly the USA. We need to build home grown social media networks. We are extremely entrepreneurial, mobile, and versatile and make things happen. Give a Nigerian half a chance and he will excel, no matter where and against what odds.

But technology cannot solve all the challenges which are also opportunities. As with all the emerging markets, there are two Nigeria’s, one which is looking good, well fed, highly educated and connected. The other 47% who don’t read or write and certainly don’t have a computer. That is the dichotomy. All the speakers agreed that while we can be excited by the opportunities of Nigeria, we cannot forget that we are leaving whole population behind. Education is key to unlocking the full potential, knowledge gives you access and understanding of your rights. Youth unemployment is a “ticking time bomb” said one speaker. Extreme poverty, political unrest, especially in Northern Nigeria are just some of the challenges facing the emerging Nigeria. With the full knowledge that the session was being broadcast on all the social media networks from Face Book, Twitter and the many local websites, the speakers were candid about the real issues which need to be faced and not brushed under the carpet. This was refreshing to hear as I have sat through many discussions when the Indian economy was growing at 9% and the needs of those at the bottom of the pyramid were not being openly discussed.

Tonye Cole the CEO of Sahara Energy, through the Sahara Foundation is using social media to bring these stories to the forefront. He shared his experience of visiting an orphanage in a village and seeing over 200 under nourished children with dreams and saw the huge potential talent going to waste. Will they ever make it without support he asked?

The discussion on the need to build a “national identity” and the role of the Leaders was very moving.  Leadership is an Act and not a position remarked all the speakers. “Nigeria does not need more followers but people who can step up and act”.

Social media in Nigeria is encouraging transparency, things are evolving and technology is bringing corruption down. Africa 2.0 mission is to get young people to join and become part of the political change they want to see. Social media is the pulse of the people, both good and bad. The session ended with each speaker saying one word to unlock Nigeria: Integrity, Leadership, and Ideology. For more information about Africa 2.0 and how you can join please visit: http://africa2point0.org

 HIVE Initiative, Tayo Ajayi, Founder

Tayo Ajayi, was young volunteer at the Social Media Week, who had just returned from 7 months in Kerala participating in the Kanthari programme.  From his volunteer position he is absorbing everything and shares his passion for setting up an NGO for street children in Lagos. I am so moved by his story, his passion and his desire to now put into practice all that he has learnt over the past 7 months from participating in the Kanthari Programme, that I immediately offer to support him.

Through him I learn about Kanthari International (http://www.kanthari.org), based in Kerala, South India. They provide an incubator and spring board for visionaries who are able to transform concepts and conventions, by offering specially developed, high quality and relevant leadership training. They equip participants with all the techniques, methods and ideas they need to start up and run effective, relevant social projects all over the world. Kanthari I discover is a plant that grows wild in every backyard of Kerala, a small but very spicy chilli with a number of medicinal values. But a Kanthari is also a symbol for those who have the guts to challenge harmful traditions and the status quo, who have fire in their belly and a lot of innovative ideas to make a positive difference. This is how I saw the Nollywood film industry when I first met its producers,  directors and financers in the 2003. It was their “can do” attitude which led me to think there were other models to making film than those we had developed in the west.

The Kanthari Programme has clearly given Tayo a lot of self confidence and helped him to define his vision. With support, I am sure his NGO for street children in Lagos will be realised. For more about HIVE Initiative please visit: http://hiveinitiative.wordpress.com/2013/01/23/kanthari-dream-speech-2013. You can also see Tayo’s Dream Speech on http://www.kanthari.org/live 

Marcus Glover, President/CEO of GLU Agency based in USA.
He is the executive producer of TheBeautiful Game an inspirational feature documentary about the power of soccer in modern Africa — a game that is helping to change the lives of individuals and communities across the continent. Players, fans, young, old, with or without a disability, male and female… millions of Africans’ lives are wrapped up in the ‘beautiful game’. The film interweaves a number of dynamic stories from six separate African countries: Kenya, Egypt, South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana, and Ivory Coast. Together these stories reveal how soccer can be an effective social and developmental tool; and how a game can play a crucial role in shaping a new future for Africa. 
Marcus was one of many African Americans, Nigerians and other Africans living in the US who had flown into Lagos for the Social Media Week. We both agreed Nigeria can do more to leverage its vast diaspora for intellectual capital, skills, education and of course wealth which goes beyond remittances to a more organized investments.
20th FebruaryThe Beat 99.9FM and Billboard Music Conference at The Porsche Centre. This one day conference focused on the music industry both the show and business. Chaired by Obi Asika, Colin Gayle and Chris Ubosi, Founder MegaLectrics, the topics included Vision for Billboard in Africa, opportunity to create an Africa live nation; the business of music and how the Nigerian scene can engage and financing the entertainment industry. Sadly due to other meetings, I missed the morning sessions but here is a summary of the presentations I did manage to catch:
Kevin Shekspere Briggs, Grammy Award winning producer  from USA on working with talent: It’s very competitive industry.
  • Make it the best music you can because great music is what sells. Make the best record that could be done with the artist. When selecting an artist’s to work with, take away as many of the variables for failure. Make a judgment, it’s not for everybody. There are more celebrities than super stars. Different artists have different qualities; the role of the producer is to know what will work. Have to stand out from the crowd.
  • Nigerian Producers and US producers need to work together, we want to know how the Nigerians work.

Banky W on how to break into the US music market:

  • Bankey W is renowned in the Nigerian music industry as record label owner, R&B singer, writer, entertainment and businessman. He is the co-founder of Empire Mate Entertainment EME with Segun Demuren.
  • His advice was to develop what you have here for the local consumer. We have huge population in Africa and we need to find the best ways to connect with the consumer. There are more artists per square meter in Nigeria than anywhere else in the world! Music will find its audience. He cited Fela Kuti as an example of an artist who remained loyal to his audience, his music and his individual talent. His advice is to be unique, stay true to who you are, don’t imitate. His label looks for artists who are true to themselves.
  • Technology is making it easier to make and distribute music. Bankey W set up his own label after endless rejections.
  • He launched himself with “Mixed Tapes”, taking popular well known songs and remixing them; put his own twist onto them. You cannot sell them but they are good promotional tool. Jamaicans did it and created the biggest market for black music. Mixed Tapes are a great vehicle to get your music heard and a good way to introduce new artists on sounds already known. You get promotion, immediate exposure for the artists on YouTube.
  • There is an urgent need to focus on the “business of music” – royalties, publishing, and licensing and % points. Fix the business of music and the rest will follow.
  • International music industry can see the money and success and is beginning to deal with Nigeria.

Uzoma Dozie, Executive Director, Diamond Bank, spoke about financing the entertainment industry along with speakers from several other banks:

  • Bankers said music business owners need to build business models that help the different stakeholders. Music industry is actually successful. Music brand is the image of the nation. You have validated the show now sort out the business said one banker! Soft power of the music industry is not quantified. Over 10,000 bars and clubs across Lagos play Nigeria music but none of them are paying any royalties.
  • Banks want to see balance sheets, cash flows and business plans. There is a lot of passion but banks cannot finance passion. Banks will not take time to study the music business. There is no data, and banks can only lend based on data. Banks can fund lower risk – easier to fund studios or a tour but not an album or a single.
  • Billboard could provide this data.
  • A consolidation of the Nigerian music industry is taking place and global players like Universal and Sony are beginning to open offices in Nigeria. It would be shame to have grown this industry to such a level, only for it to be bought by outside buyers!
  • Banks are making some efforts to engage with the industry but the industry also needs to work together, come with one voice, backed by data, analysis and business plans for investments and returns. Banks also need to understand the value chain of the music industry, like the oil pipeline analogy one banker used during his presentation.
  • Music industry and banking community are still far apart, some 18 years behind. There are no publishing companies who can advance against an album, single, tour etc. There is lack of infrastructure and institutions. There is lazy banking and active banking. Diamond Bank falls in the latter category.

Bandwidth and pricing – monetising online content: Panel discussion with Paul Okeugo, COO of Chocolate City Group, Mark Redgard, CMO of Spinlet and Michael Uguw of Iroko.

  • Bandwidth is a big challenge. Accessing data via mobile is costly; the price needs to come down. Iroko operate outside of Nigeria where bandwidth is not an issue. Sometimes it’s cheaper to take a flight to UK and load their music onto the Iroko platform!
  • Mobile is the device for music downloads, while desk top computers and tablets are used for movies.
  • Discovered people were watching their music video between 9-5 at work where they have access to the internet. But many companies shut the service down to staff.
  • Afternoons and evenings are the most downloads. 1.5 million Nigerians are hitting sites, looking for content.

Spinlet is emerging as Nigeria premier digital music download platform. It was founded in 2006 in Finland and introduced to the Nigerian market in May 2012. Now with a catalogue of music comprising of hundreds of thousands of songs, spanning from genres such as ‘Akpala’ to ‘Techno’ and ‘Hip-hop’, subscribers are guaranteed, as the company puts it, ‘an exciting lifestyle experience’. Subscribers wishing to download any song of their choice can do so by simply downloading the free Spinlet app to their mobile phone. After selecting any song of their choice, a fee (referred to as Spinlet credit) is deducted from the mobile device and the song is downloaded instantly. It’s the Spotify of UK. http://spinlet.com.

The CEO, Eric Idiahi, joined Spinlet in 2010 from the private-equity firm, he co-founded in 2008, Verod Capital Management Ltd. He took note of Spinlet in 2010 and gave them their first round of financial backing.

Artist use social media to cross promote their music. For example they will go on radio and refer their fans to buy from Spinlet. Same for face book, twitter. Ask and consumer will follow said Mark Redgard, CMO of Spinlet.

21st February

Co-Creation Hub Nigeria, Bosun Tijani and Femi Longe, Joint CEO & Founders  

My visit to Co-Creation Hub could not have been more different from the day before for the Music Conference. Located in a seven story commercial building on the mainland in Sabo Yaba, Lagos, CcHub is Nigeria’s first open living lab and pre-incubation space dedicated to catalyzing creative social technology ventures. CcHub functions at the heart of Nigeria’s technology innovation ecosystem as a place to:

  • facilitate creative thinking and  collaborative problem solving encourage technology innovation  for improved social accountability in Nigeria
  • incubate novel tech ideas that  promote good  governance/provision of public services
  • encourage shared accountability  between technologists &  innovators serve as a lab for prototyping and testing  socially-minded tech tools
  •  build new skills and competencies 
  • connect, share, create and find expertise

As partners with SMW, CcHub had organised several presentation at their venue which was teaming with young people, armed with laptops, mobiles and tablets working and participating in the session simultaneously.

The session I heard was presented by BudgIT, Retooling the Nigerian Budget. BudgIT is a civic start-up driven to make the Nigerian budget and public data more understandable and accessible across every literacy span. BudgIT’s innovation comes with a creative use of government data by either presenting them in simple tweets, interactive format of info graphic displays. Their goal is to use creative technology to intersect civic engagement.  To continue the discussion, citizens are encouraged to visit: www.yourbudgit.com/10steps

The challenge voiced by many of the speakers was how you use social media in local community. One Doctor shared his story of he is asking his patients “so how you going to vote, have you registered? Do you know the health budget?  Campaigns like Retooling the Nigerian Budget have helped to raise awareness and people are moving from complaining to action. Citizens need to engage and provide solutions and help build a mass movement. Just three years ago government was not using social media, but today 90% of work is online.

Co-Creation Hub is in the forefront of technology innovation, a home for tech entreprenures. They provide space for work and networking.  Open space, tables, lap tops, wireless, and mobile, mix of men and women, a welcoming space, I could be in Hoxton, London!  CcHub also funds early stage start-ups and supports them. In a brief conversation, Bosun Tijani, joint CEO and Founder, who was educated in UK,  explained his ambitions for CcHub: 

  • Build a co-working space, place for people to meet, open living lab.
  • Solutions using technology
  • Mix of social and commercial enterprises.
  • So far they supported 20 start-ups.

CcHub is surrounded by creative institutions within one mile radius including: iHQ Project which is government supported; Design School; Vocational Training School; University of Lagos; Software company; Centre for Creative Hut providing technology solutions for artists; Mobile Money Company called Paga; Techno Vision. These are all key ingredients for innovation hub to work. Government have opened a business incubator next door and launching technology innovator.  The whole place is wired by Main One cable.

His ambition is to take over all the floors of the commercial building and turn it into an Innovation Hub. The cost of refurbishing will be $3 million and they are already in discussion with “impact investors” from UK and other parts of the world who are interested in supporting. Nigerian impact investors he says are still slow to recognise the value of investing in technology enterprises. 

22nd February

My last day in Lagos, I have to catch an 11.30 pm flight and everyone tells me I must leave Victoria Island by 4.30 pm, 7 hours before my flight because any later and I will miss it! The traffic going into Mainland is unbelievable, so slow the wheels on the car don’t make the full revolution. For the first time in my life, I listen and agree to leave as advised. This means I will miss the end of Social Media Week party and the last few sessions.

But I did manage to listen to The Honourable Minister of Communication Technology, Mrs Mobola Johnson, speaking on Technology in Governance at the Lagos e-Learning Centre.  Her presentation focussed on how Government is using technology:

  • E Government to deliver services
  • Governance – to engage citizens in policy

Examples of how civil society is using technology included:

  • Enough is Enough is a campaign to get citizens more engaged with the political process.
  • RSVP – Register, Select, Vote and Participate is another campaign to get them to vote.
  • ReVoda is an App which can be downloaded with the unique polling number. They are going beyond the elections to help citizens to monitor their power failures, roads.
  • Shine Your Eye is way of tracking how national assembly ministers are voting and representing citizen’s interests in government.
  • BudgIT app which allows citizens to download Government budgets and track how and where government is spending. iWathc track how government is spending this budget
  • iPolice tracks crime while Freedom of Information Apps gives citizens information about their rights.

Ministry for Communication Technology was created in 2011 and its job is to develop business, infrastructure and social development. The Ministry is embarked on major initiatives for eGovernance and conducted a review of the government departments and their use of ICT, only to discover that not all departments even have websites and they are all using different technologies!

The Ministry is addressing this by creating a National Portal, one entry point into the government, single window through which to access all government websites. Delivering as many of the government services online is the goal and already it is now possible to apply online for a new passport; business community can get information about Customs for Tariffs for goods coming in; all government policy drafts are posted online and stakeholders can give feedback online as well as attending face to face meetings.  The information is available in three of the national languages. Full migration she said will take 3 year to complete but the process has been started.  The aim is to have 150-200 process online by 2015. For those without access to the internet, they have launched a call centre and people will be directed to the right department. But all this needs a lot of electricity to drive online and to digitise the information.

Its biggest challenge is Internal and Connectivity. Internally within Government, the challenge is to change the mindset of government officials.  I have often wondered why all the government officials I engage with in Nigeria use a gmail or yahoo account. When I used their government ID emails address, the email bounces back. Her ministry found that over 65,000 government officials have an official email ID, but still use yahoo and gmail accounts. She is leading a campaign to get them to use their official email ID and trying to get government officials to use Twitter to interact with the citizens.

The other challenge is connectivity and high cost of devices, means internet use and penetration is still low.  The Ministry is working with Telecommunications and internet providers to increase bandwidth. Over the next 5 years the aim is to increase broadband activity from 6% to 35%. Bringing down the cost of the device is another;  at $600, the Smartphone is not affordable by all and phone manufactures are producing affordable devices.

The expectations over the next 5 years is to develop a more coordinated approach to use of ICT in government; build closer collaboration between state and federal government structures; Increasing data online; Publishing online is already happening but now move to interactive so people can buy and pay for services online; spreading the message about services online and to get citizens to use them.

The Ministry for Communication and Technology is led by an incredibly smart woman who is passionate about ICT and how it can be used to unlock Nigeria.  This was one of the most inspiring sessions of the Social Media Week. 

The week was full of activity, interactions, networking, conversations, transactions and collaborations. With gratitude and respect to the organisers and the many volunteers who made this such an enjoyable and memorable week, even the Lagos traffic jams did not seem to matter.