Thought and Ideas
The Internet age Part Two: Facility reduced to platform of social chats
Posted Sunday, October 27 2013 at 01:00
In last week’s lamentation about an Internet age in which we are all in touch with the world but most of us can’t seem to make money from the content we upload on it, I suggested that there has to be a way around this dilemma.
The Internet should have been the long-awaited answer to so many of our endemic problems in Africa, from high unemployment to lack of information, poor communication systems, lack of contact with useful public institutions and personalities.
What it became, instead, was a platform dominated by social conversations and chat but so far has not done much to transform the African economies.
Still, most people in Uganda pay cash to buy airtime, newspapers, fruits, snacks, clothing, chewing gum and other bits and pieces of merchandise. It follows that to reach this market, one has to sell tangible goods payable with cash, be it music, videos, photos and news.
For the foreseeable future, from all indications, the Internet will not be much of a place to make money for the ordinary Ugandan or Zambian. There are no real eCommerce platforms in Uganda, few means of paying online for any such services in real time, and a tiny market for that even if it were there.
We are better off selling our creations and products in the traditional market, not online. The Internet is important in conducting research and communicating, not for trading, for the ordinary person.
It seems obvious but for many years after the mid 1990s, it did not seem that obvious. We were told about a glorious era of online shopping and earning money on the Internet, an era that has largely not yet come to be.
For the few who might still wish to try their hand at making money online, especially in the news business, the nearest to an approach would be to seek specialist markets, small niches of people and groups one can target.
Last week, I mentioned the fact that I have more than 10,000 followers on the micro blogging website Twitter but none of this can earn me money.
My Twitter followers are scattered all over the world and so it is hard to find a coherent product to sell them or message that can translate into cash.
It would have made a big difference, however, if these 10,000 Twitter followers were all or mostly resident in Makindye Division where I live.
That way, I could concentrate on “tweeting” on nothing but Makindye news, gossip, crime, road accidents, missing children, community events, electric power outages and church services.
In the olden days, a radio, TV station or newspaper published or broadcast as much and as varied news as it could, hoping to reach as wide and diversified an audience and market as possible.
The Internet now makes it possible to specialise and focus on a very tiny and narrowly-defined audience, and reporting, delivering or manufacturing, designing and discussing the ideas, goods and services of interest to only this tiny, specialized audience.
I would, in effect, have a Makindye Herald online newspaper and through this, could perhaps attract adverts, paid messages and so forth from these local residents and neighbours of mine in Makindye.
However, even here one would be hard pressed to find small grocery shops that would place an advert in an online paper, never mind the right numbers of readers in our city divisions who have the means or education to read their news on the Internet.
Therefore, the stage at which we are is where the United States and Western Europe were in the mid 1990s. There is no real, substantial market for online content and transactions.