Localised Innovation

The solutions to our problem will not come from abroad, it has to come from within us.

A little confession: before September 2014, I have NEVER used Google Maps before. Not for anything practical anyway.

I did a lot of traveling in September, far beyond my comfort zones and then for the first time, I was really able to see places the way outsiders will see them and then I experienced in first person how difficult it was to get useful information about places around me and actually how to get there.

Google Maps is doing a good job, but it full of errors and using it to get around using public transportation is not easy, it is just not so helpful. You can not effectively use it to move around if you are not driving your own car.

I am a firm believer in the idea of building products and services for a well defined target audience, if you set out to start your business with a target audience in mind, you can better customise the business offering to meet their needs. If you set out with the big idea of building your business to serve everyone in the world, it will be so generalist that no one in particular might even find it useful.

It was great then to find Roadpreppers, a web-based app that looks to provide step-by-step navigation for public transportation commuters in Lagos, in a language they can relate to. When searching for places on RoadPreppers, it informs exactly which buses to take and which bus-stop to alight. No engineer at Google (which is based in the USA) can think up something like that.

We need more locally developed applications, we need more locally thought out ideas that will positively enhance how we live, work and play. The apps we import from abroad do not effectively tackle our challenges here which includes poor Internet access for example.

Everyday, we read about yet another photo sharing app or chat app launching featuring exactly the same features as the others before them. At a point I joked that the difference between the various chatting apps was their logo and colours, I wondered if we had seen it all… then I found SideTalk, a new chatting app available on Android only for now. SideTalk brings an interesting innovation to the game that makes it stand out: SideTalk works without the internet, it does not use your data!

SideTalk uses your phone’s bluetooth to send and receive messages. It is easy to see a lot of use cases for something like this:

  • Side talks during a lecture or meeting (pun intended)
  • Chatting within the house. Why should I use up my precious data to exchange messages with my younger brother in the basement?
  • Location based social networking, connect me to interesting people around me who are SideTalking.

I wonder why I have not thought up something like this before! Of course, this will not be useful to everyone and it does not need to. But I am sure it is a chat app that will appeal to the data-less folks out there. SideTalk is a brilliant example of what can happen if we sit down to think about how we can build experiences people can relate to and find useful.

This is localised innovation and going forward, if your business offerings are not relevant enough to your target audience, if you cannot feel their pain the way RoadPreppers and SideTalk has demonstrated, you are on your own.


Watching The World

  • Body hacking; people are modifying their bodies to do interesting things. Quick question: would you remove your natural eyes and replace with one that has cool features like 100x zoom (replacing the need for microscopes and binoculars), infrared and night time vision? Plenty of food for thought here and what exactly it means to be human or machine.


  • 1.6 Million more teachers are needed in classrooms by 2015
  • 250 million children around the world cannot read or write
  • Learning basic reading skills could lift 171 million people out of poverty

(Source: UNESCO. I will discuss these numbers in tomorrow’s Post. Tune in)


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