AlphaBeta in Africa: How geospatial technology could transform Nigeria

New technologies can be a game changer for developing countries. A visit to Africa put recent AlphaBeta research under the spotlight.

Nicolo’ Andreula, Principal at AlphaBeta Advisors in Singapore, just returned from Nigeria’s capital Abuja where he explained at a leadership forum hosted by Google how consumers, businesses and society can benefit from geospatial technology. Participants included Nigeria’s Minister of Information and Culture, the country’s Surveyor General and high-level representatives of the armed forces.

Geospatial services, also known as digital maps, are now deeply embedded in our everyday life. They help us track cyclones and bypass rush-hour traffic, and have become invaluable tools for businesses to connect with customers. While geospatial technology is already used extensively in the Western world, its economic potential remains largely untapped in developing nations.

“Nigeria is one of the most promising economies of Africa, if not the world.”

It’s what Mr Andreula calls “a leapfrogging opportunity” to boost productivity. “Nigeria is one of the most promising economies of Africa, if not the world,” says Mr Andreula, pointing to the oil-rich country’s booming consumer class and emerging group of local and international entrepreneurs willing to invest in agriculture, tourism, real estate and natural resources.

Geospatial services could add value to all these areas, says Mr Andreula. “For example, a new supermarket chain could use digital maps to choose the best location of its stores, or a farmer could use aerial images of crops to use fertilizers more efficiently,” says Mr Andreula.

However, traditional economic measures have failed to keep up with the rapid evolution of the geospatial industry. Quantifying its benefits can be difficult given that many geospatial services are provided free of charge and therefore go unmeasured.

In its research report The Economic Impact of Geospatial Services, AlphaBeta uses various innovative concepts – ranging from a large-scale survey of over 8,000 internet users globally to algorithm-driven big data analysis of urban commuter patterns and jobs data – to add new, compelling insights to the existing facts about these disruptive technologies.

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