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NaijaPulse: Microblogging in Nigeria

I was pleased to find out about a NaijaPulse yesterday, through Loy Okezie at Startup Africa. It’s a new microblogging platform, like Twitter, except made to operate in Nigeria (Twitter used to be global, but shut that down to just the US, Canada and India last summer). Everyone is tied to a 140-character update limit, and as Twitter is showing, that is plenty.

NaijaPulse - Microblogging for Nigeria

I really like what NaijaPulse has done with connecting the service to Facebook and Twitter. That way users of the service don’t need to duplicate their entries in both systems. They’ve also created a group feature and support the OpenMicroBlogging protocol that let’s their service share with others easily.

Growing Africa’s federated microblogging network

NaijaPulse represents a significant step forward on the African continent: utilizing the web + mobile phone to provide communication services that can ultimately be built on top of. I know of one other project going on to do the same thing in another African country. My hope is that we see this implementation of federated systems continue to proliferate around the continent. Where we can find localized versions for every country, but that also allow you to connect to a broader network if you so choose.

From the founder:

“The idea of NaijaPulse is that instead of we Africans or Nigerians getting lost in Twitter, we can use NaijaPulse where we get to meet more people from the same background, country or even streets, in doing this we get more fun from this service because our stories will be more familiar and similar and our community will be more fun. But even so, we can still even sync to both Twitter and Facebook from NaijaPulse – its a win and win situation.”

This idea of a local microblogging platforms for each country/region is where I differ on opinion from Loy. I don’t think that NaijaPulse should try to go for an Africa-wide platform. Instead, they should focus on Nigeria and getting ordinary, non-tech people using their platform. Then, as other sites like this come online around the continent, they should link up and make sure their services are compatible (which should be the case, since they’ll all likely use Laconica).

The SMS problem

Currently, NaijaPulse does not truly support SMS functionality. Instead they use your carrier’s email gateway to send and receive messages. This is a problem, as it hamstrings the future growth of a “general user” consumer base that have only basic SMS-enabled phones, and no data plans, in Nigeria. The reason why is simple, it costs to send SMS messages (not receive). If you have a person that sends out an update, and they have 100 people receiving that update via SMS then it gets expensive. Who carries that cost?

There area two possible outcomes. First, that NaijaPulse figures out a business model that allows for them to cover the cost for their service (most likely it would include subscription model and/or advertising). Second, if they can draw enough of a following, they might be able to go the way of Mxit in South Africa. Their Java-based app sits on the phone, and so a lot of people have found a way to upgrade their phones and get a data plan.

What’s next?

I think we’ll start to see new microblogging services showing up in the “hot spots” of African digerati around the continent. Nigeria was an obvious first choice, followed by the South Africans, Ghana and someone in East Africa (Uganda).

Whoever does figure out a model that works in Africa could be sitting on a gold mine of users. If there was ever a simple communication service that can work well in almost every part of Africa, this could be it.

14 Comments

  1. Erik, thanks for the mention. I appreciate your thoughts about the microblogging scene in Africa. I reckon that having multiple microblogging services for different countries/regions would be a fantastic idea.

    However, if only NaijaPulse was pan-African, I’m sure they’ll be capturing a massive audience and thus become Africa’s microblogging service just like Afrigator has been successful in the African continent.

    And true to your words:

    “Whoever does figure out a model that works in Africa could be sitting on a gold mine of users.”

    This could mean more business potentials for NaijaPulse.

  2. It’s really great to see the rapid improvements in connectivity in Nigeria. I’m not sure how big an impact this one will have if, as you say, there is no SMS connection. Of course, the elite and businessmen will have their data plans, but few ordinary people will, since the cost is on the order of magnitude of a laborer’s wages.

    Since you can already sendTwitter messages even in Africa, and anyone with a data plan could retrieve them, I’m not sure NaijaPulse is better yet for most people.

    What about Twe2? It sounds like an even better solution at this point, but I haven’t been able to register as I’m not getting a the confirmation number by SMS (and no reply to email … maybe they’re overextended).

  3. Interesting concept. I have always believed that most African innovations should model after a lot of what has proved to be successful before hand. As Erik mentioned, a platform based around a country will be more relevant than a continental one.

    In my experience with African Path, talking to Neville at Muti, Justin at Afrigator and I can imagine Ayo at African Loft has experienced, it is very hard to create a continental platform without have it skewed to one country/region. Muti had to go the South African route, Afrigator is continental but has a great percentage of its blogs based in South Africa. African Loft had a lot of Nigerian traffic starting out and African Path had a lot of East African traffic.

    I think Naija Pulse as a name will make it hard for someone in Egypt or Tanzania to tweet (or is it pulse) on the site. The brand will need a continental focus right from the start for it to work. But maybe Loy can offer it the service to other people seeking to grow their local markets and share in the profits or create multiple iterations based on different countries.

    Bongo Pulse anyone (Tanzania)?

  4. @Loy, I have to agree with Joshua here. Maybe this deserves a post all of its own… There are plenty of people within Nigeria for you to gather and serve with this site. I see this over and over again, where devs around Africa create a nice niche service, and the try to go for “all of Africa”. Ultimately, I think that spreads your resources and your focus way to thin.

    @Mike – agreed. With real SMS functionality, you have a differentiator. The problem is trying to make a business case out of it.

  5. It’s a good development so far. One of the most important thing to sustainability, a model should be built to generate income else, the euphoria will soon varnish.

    Talking about adoption in Nigeria, majority are yahoo messenger addict, if there is going to be a platform that can link it up, I bet you the adoption will be revolutional. The integration with both twitter and facebook are right step in the right direction. The facebook application should be promoted more to give more publicity to it.

    Big ups to you guys at naijapulse.

  6. It’s a good development so far. One of the most important thing to sustainability, a model should be built to generate income else, the euphoria will soon varnish.

    Talking about adoption in Nigeria, majority are yahoo messenger addict, if there is going to be a platform that can link it up, I bet you the adoption will be a revolution. The integration with both twitter and facebook are right step in the right direction. The facebook application should be promoted more to give more publicity to it.

    Big ups to you guys at naijapulse.

  7. @Joshua & Hash – You’re both right! My only concern is on the business angle of NaijaPulse. If Twitter can be used for business in the U.S and Canada, can NaijaPulse be used for business in Nigeria?

    I personally find most enterprises in Nigeria slow in adopting Web 2.0 tools and solutions for their business needs. Although, this may change in the next few years, it may slow the business development model of NaijaPulse.

  8. Nigeria has definately got a big mobile internet user base based upon some stats I’ve seen from a few mobile internet sites. However again this is just another ‘owned social network’ with wide ambitions and that train left a long time ago – The future of niche social networking has to be ‘open source social networks’ owned by the communities they serve.

  9. I spotted this on Twitter. Not sure exactly what it is…I suppose its a kind of public Microblogging service. I could post messages and comments without having to register.

    http://www.jiba-jaba.com

    It allows you to create a unique url for chat streams aswell…judging by the number of posts its still in its infancy but it looks like it could catch on…

  10. Great post, thanks Erik. There’s definitely potential here for African microblogging!

  11. I’m not even remotely from Africa, but I feel I need an account to not be missing out.

    Erik, do we have any Ushahidi devs from Nigeria?

  12. I like the fact that you can publish your “tweets” under a Creative Commons license. I’d like to see that option on Twitter too.

  13. This is also interesting: “Automatically subscribe to whoever subscribes to me (best for non-humans)”. They are already thinking seriously about “non-humans” on their service… Maybe microblogging will be the first place were we’ll see AI passing the “Turing test”? In the future, we may be just as happy to read “computed” tweets as those from a human being.

  14. I was excited when i find out about naijapulse through my white african newsletter. I like the twitter -like idea behind it and i hope it stays for years to come. Keep up the good works guys

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