How Being Tech Savvy Is Altering Our Culture In Nigeria

Last month, I urgently needed a book from Laterna, a bookstore in Lagos. In the past, I would have gone to their website and placed an order. But that would have meant them calling me to confirm my purchase — since my voice was still cracked, I didn’t want to speak over the phone. So I did what I have never done before — I placed an order via an SMS [this method of purchase is not on the list of options on their website]. In less than thirty minutes, I got a response from the sales representative. It worked!

I have been thinking about how technology seems to be changing the way we interact with ourselves, with others and the society at large. With the increase in mobile penetration, access to Internet and rise in ecommerce, our lifestyle is being altered to accommodate these changes.

For instance, we no longer have to depend on an office assistant to buy us lunch during break [those who work in a fast-paced environment will understand what I mean]. One can order food from a restaurant of choice using a website portal that connects with restaurants in Lagos. I used to be one of those who would never trust a stranger to deliver my food over a distance longer than kitchen to dinning space. But [after the office assistant did shakara one day] I found myself ordering a plate of food from Chicken Republic via Hello Food. And yes the service turned out good — once you get over the initial paranoia, of course.

Some people [not only house wives] who live in Lagos have tried doing their shopping from the comfort of their homes using Mudu, an online farmers market and grocery store. With a click of a button on this e-market, one can order fresh vegetable, pepper, tomatoes, fish, poultry products and all the ingredients needed to make a sumptuous meal. They deliver the items in less than 24hours when an order is placed. Although I have not tried it, I have heard some commendations about the portal.

When I visited Ghana recently, a family I met in person for the first time hosted my friend and me. But the connection was built over a decade ago — via Hi5, one of the best social network sites [before Facebook came and stole their thunder]. The lady [who is now married with two kids] and I connected and built a relationship for so long because the Internet enabled it. The mutual trust was furthered strengthened by frequent chats over Whatsapp. We feel that we have known each other forever.

A baby who is born today comes out from his mother’s womb almost sliding into the iPad that his mother left on the bed. My three years old niece knows how to reset my phone without my supervision. A generation is born into this tech boom and are called digital natives. The gap that used to exist between them and the digital immigrant [older generation] is gradually closing up, as the later is forced or inspired to connect to the trend. Raymond Zvavanyange and Sandra Muranganwa in their article focused on how to help grown-ups embrace technology reiterated that adults could also be as tech savvy as these digital natives, whether in urban or rural setting.

As I type this, Facebook boasts of about 1.49billion people on the portal each month, Whatsapp- 800 million, Instagram- 300 million, according to Mark Zukerberg. A recent article on TechPoint states that mobile penetration is increasing globally and Africa is at the center stage with a growing rate of consumers. There are 7.1 billion mobile subscriptions across the globe, Africa has 12.8% of this global figure, with a record of about 912 million subscribers. The continent has also recorded a surge in the rise of ecommerce/retail market. Players such as Konga, Jumia and Deal Dey dominate the Internet retail market in Nigeria, Ansari Omair, stated in his article, How technology is shaping consumer behavior in Africa.

Tech penetration is not slowing down. It is altering every facet of our society — from the media, to politics, to education, to health, to finance, to religion etc. The narratives we should perhaps begin to explore is how to sustain the new culture being formed by this trend.

Jennifer Ehidiamen founded RuralReporters.com in 2014. She is actively exploring the intersection between storytelling, tech and development. She has reported on global health and development issues in Africa for Voice of America (VOA News), Global Press Institute, Ventures Africa, The Nation etc. A 2016 Foreign Press Scholarship award recipient, 2013 Innovative Young Journalist Award recipient, 2013 New Media Fellow for International Reporting Project, and 2010 LEAP Africa Award recipient, Jennifer runs the Rural Reports project with a team spread across different regions in Africa. The news portal is dedicated to covering issues around rural development. Jennifer graduated from the Nigerian Institute of Journalism with a degree in Mass Communication and earned a Master of Arts degree from Columbia University. She has published three books: "In Days to Come" (2004), "Preserve my Saltiness" (2011) and "Half A Loaf And A Bakery" (2013). Jennifer currently serves as a full-time writer and communications consultant. Follow Jennifer on Twitter @Disgeneration

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