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Geospatial data key to growth in Africa

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Africa is a place of extreme contrasts, with a booming middle class and small, rapidly growing clusters of wealth existing alongside swathes of widespread poverty. For a business owner hoping to tap into these growing markets, the value of population and geospatial data at a granular level cannot be overstated.

As competition for lucrative business opportunities becomes even fiercer in regions like Europe and North America, Africa is attracting more attention from the international business community than ever before. And this isn’t just in the powerhouses of South Africa and Nigeria – both of which have recently shown lacklustre economic growth of around 0.8% – while smaller economies like Ghana, Rwanda and Ethiopia show growth at double the rate of many of their sub-Saharan counterparts.

Africa is a place of extreme contrasts, with a booming middle class and small, rapidly growing clusters of wealth existing alongside swathes of widespread poverty. For a business owner hoping to tap into these growing markets, the value of population and geospatial data at a granular level cannot be overstated.

How, for example, is a restaurant or coffee chain that is already experiencing promising growth in East Africa to accurately understand neighbouring markets, into which they hope to aggressively expand in the coming months and years?

Buying survey data from traditional providers, and assembled at the city-wide or regional scale, can only get a business so far. After all, knowing how many potential consumers are present in a city with millions of people does little to help you capture the right clientele, when much of a business’s turnover is dependent on local foot traffic and patronage of customers mostly based in the immediate area.

Location, Location, Location

What is the average household income in the area you’re eyeing-out for your next franchise location? How many children does the average family have? How do they consume media? How many people live and work in the area? Which competitors will you be going up against, and how popular are they? Knowing the answers to these questions can mean the difference between success and failure in any market, especially those as rapidly evolving as the ones in many African urban centres.

By combining existing household data with a far more granular layer of individual information, it becomes possible to construct a more useful target-customer profile than has ever been possible before. At Fraym, for example, we help our clients to identify potential customers at the hyper-local level through division of the geographical landscape into far smaller sections, often grids that divide communities into detailed areas of as little as a single square kilometre.

A competitive landscape analysis that takes as many high-quality data points into account as possible is essential to reducing chances of failure in growing markets. Fortunately, the digital data disruption is adding unique advantages to the practice. When customers are clearly understood, a business can make the most informed decision possible when searching for a location that will expand their operations successfully. Satellite imagery and complex machine-learning algorithms are an invaluable way to process such large amounts of data, looking for the common thread between household survey data sets and the geo-coordinates of the respondents, to identify new opportunities that would previously have gone unnoticed.

Getting Big Impact from Small Areas

Very often, businesses will consider locations based on anecdotal evidence or expensive survey data – inefficient, often dated, and usually not aligned to the data points that a business would find relevant to their own product or service offering. These anecdotes and surveys also often focus on national, aggregate results, missing important insights into consumer characteristics beyond traditional boundaries. But our experience has proven time and time again that success rests on understanding small clusters of consumers at the neighbourhood level, with pockets of untapped consumers often popping up at the intersections of traditional geographic divisions.

The Bottom Line: Quality Over Quantity

Ask any multi-national company for a quick opinion about the African business landscape, and you’ll likely hear that it’s intimidatingly low on consumer data, but also rich with potential that almost no other region can match. Granular consumer data that is informed at the individual and community level, rather than the aggregate level, is essential for businesses hoping to get a foothold in these fast-growing pockets of potential. It’s no longer enough to ask where customers live. We must ask how they live as well, and answering this question will depend on new data sources and creative ways of looking at them, if companies are looking to grow across Africa in the coming years.

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Kenya tool to help companies prepare for emergencies

After its team members survived last week’s Nairobi terror attack, Ushahidi decided to release a new preparedness tool for free, writes its CEO, NAT MANNING

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On Tuesday I woke up a bit before 7am in Berkeley, California where I live. I made some coffee and went over to my computer to start my work day. I checked my Slack and the news and quickly found out that there was an ongoing terrorist attack at 14 Riverside Complex in Nairobi, Kenya. The Ushahidi office is in Nairobi and about a third of our team is based there (the rest of us are spread across 10 other countries).

As I read the news, my heart plummeted, and I immediately asked the question, “is everyone on my team okay?”

Five years ago Al-Shabaab committed a similar attack at the Westgate Mall. We spent several tense hours figuring out if any of our team had been in the mall, and verifying that everyone was safe. We found out that one of our team member’s family was caught up in the attack. Luckily they made it out.

At Ushahidi we make software for crisis response, including tools to map disasters and election violence, and yet we felt helpless in the face of this attack. In the days following the Westgate attack, our team huddled and thought about what we could build that would help our team — and other teams — if we found ourselves in a similar situation to this attack again. We identified that when we first learned of the attack, nearly everyone at Ushahidi had spent that first precious few hours trying to answer the basic questions, “Is everyone okay?”, and if not, “Who needs help?” 

People had ad-hoc used multiple channels such as WhatsApp, called, emailed, or texted. We had done this for each person at Ushahidi (their job), in our families, and important people in our community. Our process was unorganised, inefficient, repetitive, and frustrating.

And from this problem we created TenFour, a check in tool that makes it easier for teams to reach one another during times of crisis. It is a simple application that lets people send a message to their team via SMS, Slack, Voice, email, and in-app, and get a response. It also works for educational institutions, companies with distributed staff, as well as part of neighbourhood networks like neighbourhood watches.

This week when I woke up to the news of the attack at Riverside, I immediately opened up the TenFour app.

Click here to read how Nat quickly confirmed the safety of his team.

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Kia multi-collision airbags

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The world’s first multi-collision airbag system has been unveiled by Hyundai Motor Group subsidiary KIA Motors, with the aim of improving airbag performance in multi-collision accidents.

Multi-collision accidents are those in which the primary impact is followed by collisions with secondary objects, such as other vehicles, trees, or electrical posts, which occur in three out of every 10 accidents. Current airbag systems do not offer secondary protection when the initial impact is insufficient to cause them to deploy. 

However, the multi-collision airbag system allows airbags to deploy effectively upon a secondary impact, by calibrating the status of the vehicle and the occupants.

The new technology detects occupants’ positions in the cabin following an initial collision. When occupants are forced into unusual positions, the effectiveness of existing safety technology may be compromised. Multi-collision airbag systems are designed to deploy even faster when initial safety systems may not be effective, providing additional safety when drivers and passengers are most vulnerable. By recalibrating the collision intensity required for deployment, the airbag system responds more promptly during the secondary impact, thereby improving the safety of multi-collision vehicle occupants.

“By improving airbag performance in multi-collision scenarios, we expect to significantly improve the safety of our drivers and passengers,” said Taesoo Chi, head of the Hyundai Motor Group’s Chassis Technology Centre. “We will continue our research on more diverse crash situations as part of our commitment to producing even safer vehicles that protect occupants and prevent injuries.”

According to statistics by the National Automotive Sampling System Crashworthiness Data System (NASS-CDS), an office of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in USA, about 30% of 56,000 vehicle accidents from 2000 to 2012 in the North American region involved multi-collisions. The leading type of multi-collision accidents involved cars crossing over the centre line (30.8%), followed by collisions caused by a sudden stop at highway tollgates (13.5%), highway median strip collisions (8.0%), and sideswiping and collision with trees and electric poles (4.0%). 

These multi-collision scenarios were analysed in multilateral ways to improve airbag performance and precision in secondary collisions. Once commercialised, the system will be implemented in future new KIA vehicles. 

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