As I surfed the World Wide Web last week, I came across something disturbing. At first, I came across an ad pointing to a Nigerian developed “African” social platform on one of the sites I visited. At first, it looked interesting until I went deeper into the site. “Wow, this is a good Nigerian initiative” was my first reaction when I saw the ad.
Unfortunately for me, my excitement didn’t last long. Why? It’ another IMITATION. The site has an interface that looked VERY similar to Facebook. The major noticeable difference was the colour. Out of curiosity, I decided to log in with the Facebook login option on the site. The developers of this site had done their best to copy Facebook.
I tweeted my discovery and one of my followers replied ” Looooooooool.. no comment.. but I have seen similar sites too.. same design and template..” This means that there are several other indigenous sites which are mere imitation of existing platforms.
My concern for Nigeria’s tech industry isn’t the fact that there are not enough developers as some experts have been saying. Instead, I’m more concerned about what the current pool of developers are building. Of course, the imitation I came across must have been developed by a developer who probably is short of ideas other than developing a mimic of Facebook. The mere fact that he imitated is a confirmation of his technical skills.
One then begins to wonder what this industry will turn to when a handful of our developers are imitating Western initiatives. I understand that innovation sometimes involves tweaking of an existing idea, but intelligence has to be in place. Developers need to perform a critical analysis of the Nigerian system and build what’s needed by the people; or link up with those who have these ideas. Another alternative may be to identify a global problem and solve it.
My desire is to see Nigerian tech start-ups compete strongly with Western giants. I long to see the day a tech giant will cough out huge amounts of dollars in the acquisition of a Nigerian start-up. All these may never be in view if we continue to reproduce exactly what they have. How possible is it for Facebook to acquire its imitation. If Mark Zuckerberg sees your idea/solution, will he praise you for being a faithful user of Facebook, or will he sit tight and discuss business with you?
OR, are we ‘faking it until we make it’? I hope so.