Just the other day I got into a discussion with a few colleagues on the area of innovation. They didn’t seem to believe innovation was happening here in Nigeria and that if it was indeed happening, it wasn’t disruptive enough.
Technology and the internet has put us in an era the experts are now calling the “information/knowledge age”. In the past knowledge used to be a closely guarded secret but not anymore. It used to be the exclusive preserve of a few “privileged individuals” locked up in a room called R&D. Innovation thrives when collaboration exists and information is shared.
Almost every industry in Nigeria has witnessed massive innovations over the last fives year. While I can’t say much about the oil industry, I am sure the experts will be able to comment on growth happening in that industry and I doubt it will be too different than the ones I do mention.
Look at the banking industry over the last five years and tell me you haven’t seen massive changes that have added significant values to your lifes. In the past, you always had to issue a cheque or physically visit a banks’ premises to access your funds; now we have internet banking and the ATM. Mobile money is also catching up very quickly. Let’s take a look at the ATM for a minute; the ATM was invented by Citibank in 1939 and has been in use since then, so it is very old technology. In that lies the beauty of innovation; innovations are not inventions that are required to be entirely new to qualify. Innovations only need to be new in the context of where it is being introduced. While they might have been used in other parts of the developed word for over 70 years, they represented disruptive innovation in Nigeria as they never existed before then.
Take a look at the blossoming photography industry in Nigeria and tell me what you attribute the massive growth to? Digital cameras have defined the Nigerian photography industry and blurred the line between professional photographers and amateurs. I know this first hand being a professional photographer myself, I got into photographer as a result of the opportunity presented by “digital”
Both the telecommunications and computer industries in Nigeria have witnessed disruptive innovations as well. I remember as a young boy, my father paying over 90,000 naira to secure a land-line; we waited two years and still never got the phone activated Right now just about everybody can work into a telecoms store and pick up a sim card for as low as 100 naira.
The computing industry in Nigeria is also being affected, while I have no figures to support this claim, I would expect the growth in the adoption of tablets and mobile devices are affecting the sales of more traditional desktops; this is the trend globally with mobile phone manufacturer Apple, leaping over computer Giant Microsoft in sales revenue. Over 3 million blackberry devices are in use in Nigeria as at last count, even the least powerful of this devices is a very capable computer.
I could go on and on with innovations happening in various Nigerian industries but I think you get the picture.
Technology is a major catalyst for innovation to thrive in developing countries like ours.