Nigeria and Technology: 11 Predictions for 2011

It’s the season when people make predictions about the new year, and I’ve come to learn that the best of these types come from deep knowledge, niche areas or spaces, and a good sense of history. When I think of the past 12 years I’ve spent as an active participant in Nigeria’s tech space, I’m excited about the accelerated pace we’re about to break into.

I’ve said this at meetings, online and via other channels: 2011 is an important year for technology in Nigeria! Am I speaking based on my inside knowledge of deals? Is this based on projections by investors who have been shocked to find out a huge market was skipped based on stereotype? Could my optimism have any connections with the dozens of flights that saw me in meetings discussing technology in various corners of the globe? Or is this just some desire in the head of a social entrepreneur whose professional joy depends on successful youth-led innovation? Well, it’s a mix of more than one – and maybe all.

So, 2011 will come with it’s usual highs, lows and assumptions, but you can quote these specific predictions:

1. Tablet Wars: I don’t even need to say this, right? With Inye, Ovim, and Starcomms’ tablet, the list of iPad competitors (or, if you prefer, clones) will get longer. But the real deal is that “elemi lo maa last,” which is the way we’ll say “only the toughest will remain standing” in Yoruba.

2. Less Talk: Nigerians talk a lot. Ask the telecom companies and you’ll see why they love us. In 2011, folks will talk less and act more. In fact, you’ll hear of products/services that had no Twitter mention until beta launch — because the team was busy solving the problem.

3. Collaboration: It’s become clearer that 10 percent of a big deal is much better than 100 percent of a small project. In 2011, we’ll see more people and organizations in Nigeria’s tech space working together to achieve bigger objectives. Big Names + Big Money + Big Exposure = Big Product/Service.

4. East vs. West: It’s been discussed in chat rooms and via social media channels, but technology’s African East Coast vs. West Coast goes mainstream in 2011.

5. Real Whiz Kids: When I was 24, a lot of Nigerian newspapers referred to me as a whiz kid because of the national competition that led to my emergence as Nigeria’s IT Youth Ambassador. But it didn’t take more than a few months for me to realize that I was already too late in the game at the time. 2011 will see the emergence of Nigeria’s real whiz kids, in their teens and with enough energy to take on the world. If they don’t start their businesses as teenagers, they can’t be billionaires by 21.

6. Less Cloning: I don’t belittle clones; otherwise, why do we praise any non-IBM personal computer? However, there’s a point where you move from cloning to improving, and then actually innovating via problem-solving ideas.

7. IP Lawyers: We don’t love them, but we need them. For Nigeria’s tech space to bloom, we need young — and even greedy — intellectual property lawyers who will do everything possible to protect an idea to make it grow from a seed into a profitable institution so that they can at least become secondary millionaires. We know tech, but they know the law.

8. RIP, Blogs: Blogs are dying, and in 2011 there’ll be more nails in bloffins. But this will mean that while the boys and girls go to bed, men and women will take their rightful places. Professional bloggers, welcome to your world!

9. Industry Groups, Revisited: 2011 is the last year for industry associations to book their place a la future relevance in Nigeria’s tech space. Hello NCS, CPN, ATCON, ALTON, NIG, ISPON, ISPAN, and the ones that only have presidents (with no members or relevance). Industry organizations that don’t take advantage of the vast youthful pool of talent to reinvent themselves will be committed to the history books in 2011.

10. NITDA Shake-up: The current Nigerian National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) boss will be replaced by a dynamic, youngish visionary and technocrat with excellent administrative skills.

11. Industry Analysis: Thanks to few bloggers, the Nigerian tech scene has had little industry analysis to date. However, sometime about midway into 2011, an institution will fill this gap with consistent, relevant, cutting-edge, market-based and professional services. Will it be led by one of the existing bloggers, a merger, or a new player?

All the best in 2011!

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