Home Tech News Elearn.ng | Nigerian startup taps Internet gap ‘opportunities’

Elearn.ng | Nigerian startup taps Internet gap ‘opportunities’

Elearn.ng | Nigerian startup taps Internet gap ‘opportunities’
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Michael Onobote, Co-Founder of Elearn.ng, a Nigerian startup devoted to online vocational and technical training has told Technology Times that current gap Internet gap between online and offline communities in the country opens “opportunity and not a challenge.”

Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation with over 93 million Internet users ranks among nations with high online community in the world but Onobote also says there is still a “huge gap” waiting to be bridged between the online and offline community.

Citing Facebook as an example, the Co-Founder of Elearn.ng says the current gap between the online and offline community in Nigeria presents an opportunity for companies, especially those who are primarily online to expand their businesses.

Onobote explains that social media companies like Facebook are currently turning impossibility to possibility by providing alternative means for people who are not connected to the Internet to log into the social network and interact with both the online and offline community.

Citing Facebook as an example, the Co-Founder of Elearn.ng says the current gap between the online and offline community in Nigeria presents an opportunity for companies, especially those who are primarily online to expand their businesses.

 

Michael Onobote, Co-Founder of Elearn.ng
Michael Onobote, Co-Founder of Elearn.ng wants government to grow the startup community through collaborations.

“You have companies like Facebook launching the free basics and they partnered with people as well. We have a couple of companies who are offering the free basics and we can access their contents for free so for me, I really don’t see it as a challenge.”

Onobote tells Technology Times that the “Internet is something that cuts across a lot of businesses. It is a global problem. So, if I would look at it, I would say in Nigeria as a whole, I think we are not doing so badly, but there is still a lot of work to be done. For me, I think it’s more of an opportunity than a problem.”

The Co-Founder of Elearn.ng believes that more work need to be done in the area of education and income level as these two are other key factors that can boost Internet accessibility in Nigeria. In addition to creating Internet awareness and infrastructure, data prices have also gone down within the past two years and these steps are encouraging more Nigerians to go online, he says.

“If data prices rise, it will definitely affect our consumers because these are people who pay for data to access whatever contents and if it’s too expensive, nobody would care about your video. You can see the rise of Instagram comedians now, that’s because we can afford data to watch such things”, he says.

According to Onobote, “although there have been arguments around the fact that telcos also need to be sustainable in business, they need to make enough revenue, but I feel if they are innovative enough, there are still ways around these things. It is not just by raising data prices, so I still think it’s more of a regulation issue.”

He highlights roles that government can play in promoting startups across Nigeria. “I feel all government needs to do is to be an enabler, provide basic infrastructure and subsidize what needs to be subsidised. You see the government talking about building technology hubs around the country and all that, but I feel that is not really the solution.”

The Co-Founder of Elearn.ng says that “government should not be the ones managing these things but if you make it easy for me to set up my technology hub, for instance, and I can run it as a private entity without having to pay through my nose and I don’t have to think of the exorbitant power.

“I don’t have to think of the tax that does not make sense. So, government should just provide the enabling environment and every other thing would fall in place. A technology hub like idea Hub can be a private-public partnership. Private entities will run these things effectively.”

According to him, “to enable the availability of more hubs, what the government should do in that case is that as opposed to building and managing the hub, they can provide the land and say ‘ok, this particular land is dedicated to anyone that wants to set up a technology hub. We have done all the paper works already, all you need to do is lease it for a period of time and whatever revenue you generate, we will have a maybe share or whatever it is.’”

Onobote explains his views on this when he says, “I don’t expect the government to build, manage, maintain and all that processes. But just enable private entities that have a better knowledge of how these things are managed. You have a lot of people who have either gone outside country and have seen working systems and can now come here, not necessarily replicate but can bring ideas that are fresh to the table.”

Noting that “technology for the sake of technology is not technology.” Rather, he says that the need for offline business to have online mark and also for online business to have an offline mark as business today is a two-way thing. “WhatsApp is online. You can successfully run your business via WhatsApp.

“There are businesses that are making silent, cool cash on Instagram, so you can run your business successfully via any means but don’t forget that there is still a large number that are not online. So how do you reach those people? It’s a chicken and egg situation. You are either saying let’s bring these people online but still, there is a problem of education and income level which has not been tackled.”

Noting that “technology for the sake of technology is not technology.” Rather, he says that the need for offline business to have online mark and also for online business to have an offline mark as business today is a two-way thing. “WhatsApp is online. You can successfully run your business via WhatsApp.

Technology Times file photo shows commercial activities at Computer Village Ikeja, the largest technology market cluster in Nigeria
Technology Times file photo shows commercial activities at Computer Village Ikeja, the largest technology market cluster in Nigeria

According to him, “we also have to talk about how the businesses that are currently online can reach out to their offline audience who are not online yet. They will still get there at some point but as we speak, they are still your market but they are not there yet. Where we are now in Nigeria is a stage where even if you are online, you still need to think of the mass market, you still need to think of the people offline.”

The Co-Founder of Elearn.ng explains that he and his team reach out to their online audience via social media and for the last boot camp which is an offline training they conducted for interested students, he said, “we made physical fliers, we spoke at churches and we had people in the universities to reach out to certain focus groups such as fellowships, where people gather, that’s how we reach out to them.

“We have notice boards that students go to and see things. Most of our awareness was actually offline. Just very few of the students that came here saw our adverts online, most of them were through our offline advertisements and that’s one thing that most people are still struggling to understand. How do we reach out to these people? And that’s what we as a business are still finding more effective ways.

He sees lack of mentorship as one of the major challenges facing the online learning sector. “One of the major challenges is mentorship, like having people who have been there. For instance, in this our space. There are just very few players. Online learning is sort of a new thing. It’s an emerging market or industry in Nigeria so you have very few people you can reference to look at and say how they have done it successfully in this market.”

Technology Times photo shows Chinese phones and others phone brands seen on display at Computer Village in Ikeja, Lagos
Connected market…Technology Times photo shows phone brands seen on display at Computer Village in Ikeja, Lagos

According to Onobote, “There is a lot of what I will say is survival bias. You get to hear more of the success stories and you don’t get to hear the failure stories and for me, I think it’s good to also hear the failure stories so that we can also learn and understand why businesses fail.”

He also pointed out regulation as another major challenge, “Regulation is another pain in the neck whereby one single policy change can throw you out of business the next minute and that’s one thing I feel that maybe with active participation of entrepreneurs or even people who have interest in tech or are enthusiastic about it, in policy and decision making, we have more people like that who understand, the space, then it would really help.”

Funding, according to the Elearn.ng Co-Founder, is another major challenge impeding growth of startups in Nigeria. “Also, running a business, if we were not in this accelerator, we will probably be doing a lot of trial and error. Funding is very key. As a founder, you need to pay your bills so that you can focus on your core business.”

“We still have a long way to go but it’s interesting to see that people are investing their time in building the future of Nigeria and Africa and I think with the right partnership, with the right enabling environment, we will get there soon”, Onobote says.

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Elizabeth Edozie Technology Journalist @Technology Times 08077671659 elizabeth.edozie@technologytimes.ng

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