knowledge has been identified as a bedrock of many developed countries such as Singapore and Japan, in an interview with Felix Rwang-Dung, Project Director, HORD Limited. He speaks with Justice Godfrey Okamgba on how Nigeria can leverage online platform such as www.askanexpert.expert to boost knowledge based economy.
What’s the main thrust behind the new initiative “Ask an expert”
Nigerians need to seek guidance and insights to productively achieve success in their personal goals. In my view, in Nigeria, the access to qualitative data or information is quite limited. A platform like www.askanexpert.expert gives the opportunity for people to directly connect with experts in various specialities where experts wisdom can be shared on achieving anything desired.
Apart from Google and other search engines, people (experts) are quite the repository of qualitative information. To be termed an expert, they must have gained experience, learnings or skills in a particular field over time and the fundamental model now is being able to create accessibility to these people (experts) via mobile or web portals for the general public to engage and ask the relevant questions to gain more wisdom and understanding on any topic of interest.
Essentially its simply an online mobile directory of experts enabling easy direct access for enquiries, expertise and getting insights to aid people in making better decisions daily.
It’s quite obvious that most tech companies in Nigeria are coming up with different innovation, in what ways do you think the government can actually benefit from this?
From our description of an expert, what we have modelled is to categorise experts into both individuals or Organizations, by organisations we also include government agencies etc. Now, when you look at the government, its really hard to get information or direct access quickly. By having them on a platform like Ask an Expert App, it makes it more convenient via mobile devices for direct access to government bodies to be able to make enquiries and get the much needed guidance to enhance decision making.
With government, there is a lot of opportunity, when people are engaged productively, it will enhance creativity and innovation. With more explanation and knowledge given by a government representative, for example, about correct govt policies or regulations on certain topics, products e.g customs, people will be able to make better informed decisions. The platform is going to add significant value, enhance accessibility, boost confidence in taking initiatives and result in a lot more productivity amongst us Nigerians.
Do we have tech companies like yours that are doing what you’re trying to bring to the table?
Not in the exact model we have adopted. What we have enabled is a direct connectivity between people using live chats for online consultation, counselling and advisory services. We have innovated by combining a few current successful global technology concepts so people can easily adapt from a user perspective.
Leveraging on the current Sharing Economy phenomenon from a knowledge based perspective and the way people have embraced the use of On-demand services and private messaging, we have combined these to also include some features of expert networks like detailed profile displays to help people decide which experts might best be in position to know the specific topic the user is seeking to get more understanding on etc.
Being able to incorporate all these technology features that people are already used to, onto one platform is a unique model we currently don’t see in the market although there are a few other different models out there.
When you talk about experts , what are the major criteria that qualifies one as expert in order to enrol on this platform.
Experts can be individuals (local or in diaspora) or organisations (public or private). The sections are split into 11 major categories further broken down into multiple specialities per category E.g under the Health & Medicine category we have experts as Pharmacist, Psychiatrist, Gynaecologist, ENT Specialist etc across different sectors especially give more National visibility to SMEs, this is a way they can meet more customers, introduce their products and services to gain more business.
The Experts are modelled also into four (4) connections plans, which determine consultation fees or cost of the experts service rendered from free, premium, standard or low consultation charges. There are various best practise in-house policies and criteria’s considered during our expert verification process to be able to place experts in line with the relevant connection plan accordingly.
For organisations, these vary from public to private companies, associations, institutions, this platform will also act as a secondary customer service portal. People can easily get access and make enquiries from their mobile devices.
Do you think the knowledge-based economy can help Nigeria, do you have practical examples or success stories where knowledge based sharing economy has thrived?
The term knowledge sharing economy is just becoming understood better as we evolve into a new era. The industrial revolution started from the opening up of coffee shops; people started gathering together to take coffee on the streets and conversations ensued which in the process, people started sharing experiences, ideas amongst themselves in those days and that was how an industrial revolution was birthed in Europe.
This later evolved to the information era when the internet was made commercially accessible which also boosted information and knowledge sharing and a boom in more innovations and initiatives as we are exposed to now with limitless knowledge.
All these are part of the core knowledge based economy as we have noticed that most advanced nations significantly inject this into their educational systems and have a huge spend on this meaning the more knowledge is shared, the more creativity and innovation can be achieved as we can look at the same issue or problem and come up with varying options for solving it using the same information or knowledge.
You will also note that in these nations, information and knowledge is readily available and continuous research is been conducted to improve on existing solutions using knowledge share. We have countries like Singapore, Japan and the USA who are leading supporters of the knowledge sharing economy initiatives and models especially injected in their educational systems and processes which has transformed the lives of its citizens.
If am an expert and am interested to get registered as an expert, what am I suppose to do?
Preferably, just download the app via your Google Play store fro android device. The registration process can be initiated directly from the app once installed its easy to follow the registration instructions. If expert is not using an Android device, they can also register via our website by just filing a simple form with relevant details that will capture experts profile and details (same details captured on app); it’s paramount we verify the data provided by experts so they cannot be anonymous on the Ask an Expert platform.
We collaborating with professional bodies and associations from various areas of interest across Nigeria who already have established experts. This helps us establish the required credibility of the calibre of experts on the platform and we have various other policies and penalties to protect users. Once experts have been registered, they will be activated after the verification process once approved, then they will be readily visible and available to get anybody that wants their services on the platform. They can also promote and drive more traffic to themselves on the platform to monetise their engagements via their personal social media platforms.
How long to does it take an expert to be on the platform?
It varies, depending on the amount of details contained in the experts registration application for our verification process. We have in-house certified fraud examiner (CFE) experts conducting the verification process to ascertain we get only the right calibre of experts on the platform. These are experts skilled in detecting identity frauds especially and this verification check process takes from a few hours to at most 2 days.
I am so much concerned about what qualifies someone as an expert; Is it the number of years regarding experience or what?
There are various aspects to consider to try and make it dynamic as for some professions, the minimum years of experience can vary as it pertains to most professions would require a minimum of 5 years experience to start with and we have the various connection plans which also helps align the experts based on various criteria and scenarios beyond just the number of years of experience.
Regarding benefits and value, what should an ordinary man expect?
People especially for us in Africa, generally face different challenges, issues or problems ibn our daily lives and a way we can alleviate or support such issues is by educating ourselves better and now we can leverage technology to have solutions like Ask an Expert App where we as people can readily have access to ask the relevant questions. This is even scriptural as an advise from Proverbs which advises us to seek wisdom and understanding as the principal thing. It’s true, people are getting information and knowledge through Google, but somehow the practical application is still missing which is wisdom to easily interpret these insights into productive result which improves lives.
For instance, we have various books that talks about how Bill Gates etc succeeded and made their money, but how come don’t have hundreds of Bill Gates across each continent. The key here is wisdom where mentorship can happen on an mobile online forum like Ask an Expert for small simple steps to be taken daily. And that’s what we are promoting, with an expert instructing you to do this and that, you get more practical insights and guidance etc.
With advice and counsel from experts, you stand a better chance when needing to make informed and good decisions daily and especially we have see this requirement driven by the millennial generation who are the first truly global online generation. They can now have multiple of those experts that can offer them real time counsel to succeed.
How affordable is this?
Its modelled as Subscription based Value Added Service (VAS) from mobile operators starting with MTN Nigeria for mobile users (not the experts) to have access to the service at either N35 per day, N100 per week, and 350 per month for access to the Ask an Expert platform and other charges will be based on the connection plan the experts fall under which is based on the choosing of the user, they will need to upload any amount of money sufficient to pay the experts directly using their ATM bank cards via Interswitch to fund a chat wallet on the Ask an Expert platform.
At this stage, for the experts, its free at the moment and experts don’t have to be on any network to join. The cost of engaging an expert depends on the plan which the expert falls under, ranging from free, N100, N500 to over N1,000 for 10 minutes consultation. Its a marketplace and competitive so its based on performance and detailed profile provided by experts which will lure people to seek their expertise and wisdom on any topic.
What should be your advice for the government in the area of adopting knowledge-based economy?
The government are already coming up with various initiatives for funding, grants and support for technology solutions as enablers for driving the economy forward with employment, wealth creation and entrepreneurial initiatives. There is still a lot of investment that needs to be made in the areas of education and investment in more infrastructure, technologies and incentives.