Technology for Social Impact
With the increase in number of startups and tech products in Nigeria, I developed a keen interest in the space. Moving down to Lagos has also given me a close up view of the space and trends.
I love the technological advancement and I get excited about new solutions I discover daily. In all honesty, I don’t understand most of them. Why? They are not solving the basic numerous challenges we are faced with. Majority of our population lives below $1 a day. Which products and solutions are lifting them out of poverty?
At the slightest chance of getting into a conversation with any industry or technical expert, I’m excited to get expect feedback on a question.
Is technology an industry or a tool for other industries?
Asking this question has given me a lot of rich and interesting answers. Sometimes, the conversations continue through mails.
My personal opinion: Technology is a tool.
For nonprofits and social enterprises in Nigeria, the challenge of scaling leveraged by technology. Surprisingly, not all organizations have chosen this path and there are many reasons for this.
It is possible to get excited about all the features and capabilities technology can bring to bear on social issues while easily loosing track of the fact that technology is just a tool to address these problems. Bearing this mind, hackers and technical experts should help think of themselves as one part of the larger society addressing the problems.
Most times, technical experts such as coders, programmers and nonprofits or social enterprise field officers operate on the different wavelengths. The coder is excited about the possibility of the solution and its inherent potential while the field staff is who is aware of the challenge finds its difficult to identify the perfect technological solution or is overwhelmed by introducing new product in his work process. Both parties should work towards finding a common ground about the existing reality.
Talking to target population and audience is a challenge in Nigeria and in this part of the world. Putting out surveys online is a NO. From experience, surveys carried out online have little response rate and insights as against talking directly to the target population. Nothing is a substitute for talking directly with customers, understanding their needs, and iterating the technology to meet those needs. This involves the team to roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty. This can be hard for small organizations with string budgets but carrying out lean field surveys will be useful.
Identifying the right technological solution is key.