Femi Longe: Towards data-driven technology industry growth (Y! Policy Hub)

by Femi Longe

Femi Longe (Y! Policy Hub)


Nigeria is not a very reflective society and tons of data is being lost because we do not consider them important. It is very common to find stacks of files as rat and cockroach food in government agencies, hospitals, schools and businesses that contain valuable data……

Earlier in the week, a friend of mine who works for Tuvitu in Kenya asked me for public sources of data on Nigeria’s mobile economy. They needed this to guide decision-making on how to grow their subscriber base in what is already their 2nd largest market outside Kenya. They realise that growth potential in Nigeria is huge considering our population but want to make their business decisions guided by actual numbers and trends.

From all around the world, mobile service providers are using empirical data to make huge in-roads in Nigeria. Companies like Eskimi, Whatsapp, 2Go have grown large subscriber bases in Nigeria by delivering services for carefully thought-through customer segments without stepping foot in the country or spending huge amounts on online and offline advertising in the country.

Unfortunately, we have still not woken up to the realization of the potential we lose everyday when we are not strategic in delivery guided not just by gut feeling but by empirical evidence.

But even when you are inclined to be empirical, finding the data you need on Nigeria in a form that is useful for your context is a herculean task. Most of the data we have access to are high level with very little effort taken to further segment.

The sources I could offer my friend based on my knowledge of the market were limited as the richer stuff could only be assessed at a fee beyond the reach of most small businesses.

I sent her links to the National Communication Commission (NCC) website which has been consistent in providing overview data on the mobile subscriber landscape in Nigeria, the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics which has a potpourri of datasets (half bread is better than none) and Opera’s State of the Mobile Web report.

I also sent her links to OpenApps, a community research project we are driving from the CcHub to crowd-source market intelligence from usage pattern from high traffic Nigerian web platforms. Given that most Nigerian’s access the internet from mobile devices, the insights from OpenApps will be useful.

Globally, companies use market intelligence to guide decisions like what products to build, on what platform to build, how to get the products to customers cost-effectively, what price customers are willing to pay, how to collect payment, current and future trends that would affect their business, what features to build for the future, which markets to expand into, who to produce for, what to spend on overheads etc.

Having this information is predicated by intentionally gathering the data that can be analysed to give these insights.

Unfortunately, Nigeria is not a very reflective society and tons of data is being lost because we do not consider them important. It is very common to find stacks of files as rat and cockroach food in government agencies, hospitals, schools and businesses that contain valuable data that could be used to understand trends.

Even when gathered, data, in and of itself, is of no use when not analysed and contextualised to different scenarios.

The global market research industry is a multi-billion dollar industry attracting talented people to make sense of the reams of data generated globally for sale to businesses that see value of information for growing their bottom-line. In Nigeria this is predominantly big businesses, where decision making goes through internal review mechanisms that require data to justify action.

Same cannot be said for our smaller companies and so market research firms do not price their reports for the lower segment.

It will take some doing to convince a small business owner to shell out $2000 on a report even if the report has potential to net her business 100x that amount if acted upon. That’s is just too much upfront investment for what could be hit or miss. So the business owner trudges along guided by instinct or looks for second-hand analysis that may miss out information crucial to her.

To maximise our potential, we need to find a middle ground that puts information for use at a price point within the reach of small businesses and startups. We also need to encourage not just usage of the data but internal real-time gathering of data by small businesses for future use.

Data gathering, analysis and sharing need to enter more into the fabric of our small businesses and how we do business in Nigeria.

For the emerging tech startup community, the Federal Ministry of Communication Technology can play a role in unlocking the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics to service the needs of the sector.

Data scientists from the bureau can work with the technology industry to release market-relevant reports that technology startups can use to influence what they do. The reports can cover an understanding of technology habits of Nigerian consumers but should also include contextual information on application of technology in other sectors i.e. agriculture, health etc

The Nigerian government sits on so much data that will be useful upon contextualisation for tech startups, we just require the right structures in place to release them at affordable costs.

Ecosystem players like the CcHub can play a role of contextualising data and releasing them to the emerging start-up community.

There is also room for niche information management firms to independently chronicle the reality and trends in Nigeria’s tech scene in the same vein as Crunchbase does for Silicon Valley.


Femi Longe is a co-founder and Director at Co-Creation Hub Nigeria (CcHub), an uber-cool social enterprise dedicated to co-creating innovative solutions to social and commercial challenges in Nigeria using technology. He is a learning experience designer, facilitator and social enterprise consultant. Follow him on twitter @femilonge and he blogs at www.femilonge.com


Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.

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