Thursday, January 27, 2011

Some Like It Hot...

Pease porridge hot, pease porridge cold,
Pease porridge in the pot nine days old
Some like it hot, some like it cold
Some like it in the pot, nine days old

Though I had learnt this nursery rhyme way back in my elementary days, little did I appreciate its depth and reality. A recent happening left me with a lesson that brought back strongly the essence of the rhyme.

I’ve already shared this personally with so many but more assuredly, I will hold on dearly to this in my career as an Entrepreneur. Truth is, long before I took off on this journey, I’d learnt that businesses must focus on identifying and meeting needs. It’s about providing solutions to certain issues of the clients or customers. However, I have discovered even another dimension to meeting a need.

Couture is my first line of business at the moment. I’ve not kicked off fully yet since I’m still putting a few things in place and rounding off at the fashion school. All the same, after over 10 weeks we have mastered certain basics of dress making and started making some wears. I decided on starting with complimentary jobs, a good opportunity to introduce myself in the market place. I took this one job from a good friend, and went ahead to execute with what I look back in retrospect as a little understanding of her preferences. The job came out well; truthfully many saw it and commended my efforts. I put in a lot of hours to add creativity here and there. It was one of my first jobs for heaven’s sake; I couldn’t afford to make it simple. Lo and behold, I took it for fitting and despite encouragements that I’d done well on a number of notes, she said – “the style is not me”. And then it dawned on me, nothing satisfies a customer like the exact blueprint of their expectations.

This other dimension to meeting a need is in ensuring one knows the details in full of what the customer needs and wants. It’s about reading in between the lines when they are giving their briefs. It’s about asking; asking and asking….just know that client. It goes beyond the efforts you put in, the time you’ve sacrificed, the funds you’ve expended, all would be like nothing if the other party involved isn’t fully satisfied. So now, more than anything, I’m asking and learning about my client.

While sharing this experience with some loved ones, another perspective surfaced. The same lesson applies in the other relationships like in families, and with friends. We tend to give what we feel would be appreciated because that is probably what we may want if we were in the shoes. So a woman is giving her husband a big card that sings because she really appreciates it, but he doesn’t even like cards in the first place.

We would do our relationships and businesses good if we go this extra mile to research, discover, learn what exactly we must do, how we must do, when we need to do while providing solutions. Honestly, those experiences of spot-on-execution never leave us; they enhance relationships, boost our morale from positive feedback and increase our network base through referrals.

Leave your own personal preferences and know the category your customer, client, loved one belongs…for in actual fact, some like it hot, some like it cold, some like it old and some don’t even like it.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

What is Ushahidi?

It's this thing that lets you report an incident using computers or mobile phones and then all incidents can be seen on a map.

Ushahidi may be useful this year in helping Nigerians monitor the general elections.
In the just completed Sudan voting, there was a phone number for the public to send text reports, and at SudanVoteMonitor you can see the map of voting disturbances.

If you're a software developer, learn more about ushahidi here.
If you just want to use Ushahidi, give Crowdmap a quick try

Friday, January 21, 2011

Rail

Construction is ongoing on Lagos Rail Mass Transit which would provide passenger rail services in Lagos, tha megacity.
The first two lines being developed are
the Red Line

and the Blue Line.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Suits and the Techies

From time immemorial, the techies have ruled over the suits. Don't get it twisted, even though you make and maintain the stuff of your company, and you had better exam scores at tougher subjects, in the end, those silly MBAs get to hire and fire and take all the money. Read the cautionary tale of the new layoffs at myspace.com (Remember when myspace was the coooolest thing and the most promising company? but now it's facebook this facebook that.)

Sometimes the techies are the suits. Ah, that's nice: 45million dollar yacht nice. Although it seems that kind of convergence causes premature aging. Oh my God I'm old - when did Larry Page (Google cofounder, with Sergey Brin) turn 37?


Anyway, learn, and don't get screwed, eh:

As recently as Nov 18th, Mike Jones, the now CEO of Myspace, sat in front of the entire company, thanking them for their extraordinary efforts... He and his executive team had just somehow driven hundreds of people to work hard for months, giving 20 hour days, even 48 hour sleepless stints... motivating the team with statements like "do you believe in this company or not?", "either you're in or not", and "look at what we can do when we do it together".

.... At the same time, the Myspace execs... were all being rewarded with new deals (including Jones becoming CEO), including raises and promotions... The executive team was busy plotting secret back-room deals to prevent a sale of Myspace by News Corp and to instead spin out Myspace into their control (likely taking most of the equity and giving themselves more personal gain)...

After the dust settles, the people who were in charge and responsible for the continued failure will still be in charge, with new titles and raises, clearly intent on taking as much personal value as they can from the company before it dies completely at their hands. And the hard working, loyal employees that worked their butts off, took time away from their families to *actually* try to turn the company around by building and launching the new Myspace, will be looking for jobs.

If nothing else, this ex-MySpace employee's letter will serve as a reminder to anyone contemplating an insane work commitment that voluntary overtime is just that: Voluntary. If you're not getting paid, you should make sure there's something in it for you other than a promise. Read more at valleywag: worked like dogs

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Correcting the power roadmap

The people of Nigeria have prioritized three action areas for our leadership to pursue. The first of these is ELECTRICITY. The current administration aims to attract foreign investment to the power sector.
The plan is laudable, but the reform should be led by an expert at deregulation, who is wholly committed to fairness. The former leader at the Nigerian Communications Communications (NCC, which successfully deregulated the telecommunication sector) would seem an ideal choice.
Besides inexperienced leadership, another obvious problem is the insistence on a transmission monopoly. To retain a monopoly in transmission would be wrongheaded; please liberalize everything.

Why say NO to transmission monopoly?
The current power roadmap will have us privatize generation and distribution and manage transmission in-house. If I was an investor, I'd rather build my own transmission infrastructure (duplicate) than throw my money away by trusting that transmission will be there for me. If we start with competing transmission links, in the long run, the network will be rationalized through trading. If we start with one transmission link, it is extremely likely to be the bottleneck in the whole national power system.

Arguing for monopoly:
1. Indian technocrat: Transmission is a natural monopoly, but he also identifies demand-supply gap considerations. China which presumably had competing transmission providers, had to restructure down to two companies.
2. BPE boss in Nigeria: Will be uneconomic to ask every operator to build its own network but NESCO has worked well in spite of having built its own network.

Arguing against monopoly:
1. Academic report: Questions the natural monopoly of transmission as well as the requirements of existence, profitability, and efficiency of a transmission market. So much grammar, but it squares with my intuition.

2. Nigerian administrator: With such an atomized approach and the insistence on a public sector transmission monopoly company whom are we trying to attract? We know how dismally public sector parastatals have performed over the past four decades. Exactly. In particular, NEPA/PHCN has received the "investment" to generate (assuming 1bn USD per 1000MW) tens of thousands of megawatts in 2000-2010, but what happened? Were existing plants maintained, even? Or what is the state of our transformers and transmission lines?

Friday, January 07, 2011

Application Window Opens to the Wennovation Hub -Lagos

Pleased to announce the launch of the application process to the brand new business incubation program & facility- Wennovation Hub sponsored by Africa Leadership Forum and LoftyInc Allied Partners Limited (of yours sincerely).


Apply today until February 4, 2011 at www.wennovationhub.com Do you have a transformational idea? Can you wennovate? Then give it a shot! Spread the word!



Thursday, January 06, 2011

Report of legislative internship

I served as a legislative intern at EKHA from September 24 – October 28, 2010. Below is my report:
I found the announcement on this blog actually. It was posted by Rotimi Olawale through his Youth Development blog. Check AfricaLeadership.org around July to apply. Note that the Africa Leadership Forum also provides Entrepreneurship and Information Technology Training, with some funding capital available.

Background of Host Assembly
Ekiti State was formed out of Ondo State on October 1, 1996. Nigeria’s third period of civilian rule commenced in 1999. The Ekiti State House of Assembly (EKHA) has existed since.
The third assembly (2007-2011) has 26 members from two political parties: 13 from PDP the ruling party in the nation and 13 from AC the leading opposition party.
Halfway through my internship, the governor was ousted by court ruling and a new governor was sworn in.

Internship Activities
I was attached to the Legislative department, where my basic responsibility was to observe Legislative Processes and the work of the support staff.
I was taught by the staff of EkitiLeg about the process (bill -> law) and all the documents involved. Never witnessed a sitting of the House of Assembly as there was none during the one-month period.
I resolved to either contribute policy writing or Information Technology improvements to the House members or staff. Since I found no need for policy-writers, I built the EKHA site at www.ekitilegislature.blogspot.com
By request, I also showed staff how to login and upgrade the site, as well as how to use relevant tools like email and Excel spreadsheets.

Issues
EKHA is an interesting place: Smart people, but scarce work. The working conditions too – crowded office (a permanent site is being built), limited funds for training, and again the limited engagement of the staff - make some staff find it an undesirable job.
Ekiti State as a whole is similar: smart people in an ideal natural environment somehow fail to create and enjoy wealth. Their understanding of enlightened self-interest is low such that they collude in reinforcing their poverty. Access to the meager budget (no more than $200 per capita) typically results in expenses (a car, a polo shirt, a phone) and not in investment (a good road, a new can-do director, a concert.)
How does this relate to the legislature and to issues during my internship? Well, a high-quality legislature would make laws which preserve the good about the state and repair the poverty by generating and rewarding industry. Instead, the business of our legislature appears to be politics, defined in this case as a contact sport a little like rugby or football.

Challenges
Adoption of the website will be an issue since there is little internet access at the House of Assembly. Specifically, one modem from Etisalat or Zain/Airtel is used at the House. It does not get funded regularly – costs about 3000 Naira (20 US dollars) a month – and does not work reliably, and when it works is impossibly slow.
Clearly, all this created a challenge in making the site in the first place; work was delayed till one lucky weekend when ‘the network was up.’
Besides scarcity of internet, I think that a fear of treading on toes will keep permanent staff from working on the website.

Opportunities
The purpose of this website is to provide citizens (civil servants, individuals, and others) access to the laws and to the legislators of the state, thereby leading to a deeper democracy.
There are several opportunities to continue this process:
Currently, the site has a live news wire (very important for staff, as they enjoy delicious political news), names/constituencies/committees of serving members, some staff on the organizational chart, a single email address for ekiti.leg, links to the Nigerian constitution and Ekiti data, and a promise of a calendar.
Several other states in Nigeria, the National Assembly of Nigeria, and legislatures abroad, have websites providing legislator contacts, the laws, and a view of formal legislator activities. ALF can provide interns that can continue the website work next year.
Updates could include photographs of serving members, data on past legislators (name/constituency), complete staff list, phone numbers for each legislator, email for each legislator, the laws of Ekiti, the status of Bills, and a regularly updated calendar with house activities.
In addition, ALF and other NGOs/NSAs can help by rewarding State Houses of Assembly that have superior websites. This could be achieved through positive press, financial reward, or an awards ceremony.
Websites will be judged by how well they create harmony and a close working relationship between the legislature and the people they serve. At a minimum, they must provide access to each citizen’s representative, let citizens have the law at their fingertips. Citizens will be aided in overseeing the work being done in their behalf by their legislature.

Monday, January 03, 2011

The battle, the war

...is more interested in pressuring the industry to make cheaper, more education-focused PCs than he is in manufacturing any specific machine. "We don't necessarily need to build it," Negroponte told Forbes. "We just need to threaten to build it."
OLPC is adapting, as intelligent bodies do. They're developing the $75 computer.

The story of One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) in Nigeria is a tragic opera. From the proclamation that we'll order a million, to the disgraceful lawsuit (keyboard patent my ass), to the horrible ministers of education, basically we're at no-laptop-per-child. (Read more at OLPC/Nigeria)

Still on education, the students in one state university (Lagos) intend to resume school this week even if the staff and the government can't agree that their education is important. This is very good - the youth must act in their self-interest.
News: Students of the Lagos State University (LASU) have fixed January 5, 2011 as their own resumption date...the students took the action even as the institution’s striking lecturers and the state government were yet to agree on terms to end the over three month strike embarked upon by the lecturers.

Recent Comments

Previously on UpNaira

 

Followers