Mobile Technology And Social Media

Mister Mobility at Shehu Musa Yar'Adua Centre

I was involved in the New Media & Governance conference, a two-day event that took place at the Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Centre, Abuja. My role was that of social media surgeon, manning a booth where I attended to individuals who had questions or needed assistance with using mobile phones and apps for social media purposes.

First up, there is no question about the fact that mobile technology is behind the massive uptake of social media in Nigeria. Mobile internet usage here is predominantly social, regardless of platform.

Secondly, my experience at the Social Media booth tells me Nigeria has a long way to go with using social media. Even among enlightened people, when social media is mentioned, the focus seems to be on just Facebook and Twitter, as if those are all there is to the subject. That is a mistake, of course. Who is engaging the millions of young Nigerians on MxIT, Mobofree, Tagged, 2Go, & Eskimi? Millions. Most of those using these other services have no access to smartphones. They are the masses using feature phones.

Because mobile is the predominant driver of social media uptake in Nigeria, what can we do to push the boundaries of social media even further? We need even lower data tariffs. We also need more internet- enabled devices at lower cost. At the social media surgery booth that I manned, a gentleman came to learn how to use Wifi on his N30,000 tablet. It wasn’t the best tablet, and the brand is unknown to me, but it met his needs. We must never forget that it doesn’t matter how enamoured we get with big brand names. They are mostly out of the reach of the vast majority of Nigerians.

Another man (deaf and dumb) came with a lowly Nokia feature-phone which I configured for internet. Then I got him using Twitter mobile on OperaMini with it. He was excited, to say the least!

The numbers are at the grass roots. If we get them using social media, we get more done. That means cheaper devices and data plans. We have lots of educating and training to do. Right now, we are still scratching the surface. And when I say educating and training, I do not mean seminar style where people get up on a podium to talk. We love talking in these parts. In my opinion, the key is to demonstrate; not tell. Mostly, what we do now is talk. We need to demonstrate to the average person what these devices are capable of and show them how to use them.

This is why I think that the idea of the social media surgery booths at the New Media and Governance conference was a brilliant one. Such should be given more prominent focus in our drive to promote sustainable development as a nation.

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7 comments

  1. In addition to the the already est social networks such as Facebook and Twitter, I think the next step is in getting as many young nigerians as possible to start blogging, this also applies to me.

    That way we won’t just be commenting about what is happening around us but we too will be actively involved in telling our own story to the world else others will do it for us. Case in point; KONY

  2. All well said Yomi, i also support the idea of going practical when demonstrating how these social medias can be put to use but we won’t neglect the fact that we have to do some talking first. At least one needs to understand the basics of anything you are about doing before indulging in the practical aspect (Even back in school you always do the theoretical part before the practical part :-))only in extreme cases such as the deaf and dumb man you encountered that’s when the vocal talking would not be necessary but you still communicate to pass the message across.

  3. I totally agree with the idea of social media-booth surgery booths would go a long way in enabling people to make the best use of their phones. Often (and sad to say), people will buy/acquire certain phones as status symbols and totally underutilise them. Others will buy the inexpensive equivalents with the best intentions in the world, but don’t quite know how to set them up.

    Your experience with hearing impaired guy also reminds me that there are a number of people out there with disabilities who can make very good use of phones (QWERTY-style and touch screen) given the chance/choice.

  4. I read about the conference online and was happy we are beginning to identify ways we can use the new media to better our lives as a nation. There is the need as said above to have cheap Tariff and phones too. Getting more people to understand the use of their devices beyond show off. We all witnessed the huge contribution of social media to the success of the protest against oil subsidy removal in January.

  5. Good initiative IMO . . .

    And I agree with Gabriel . . . we need more bloggers and we also need to re-direct the focus of our youths into something more constructive and productive. The time spent on facebooking, could be directed towards engineering change and developing new ideas.

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