Saturday, 2 June 2012

Singularity University

13 Days to go! Singularity University's Graduate Summer Programme is just around the corner. 3 months of hanging out with brainy kids, listening to even brainier inventors, entrepreneurs and decision makers, and putting together brain-boggling businesses that will impact 1 billion people in 10 years.

I've never been much of a Techy, but my experience here in Nigeria and in India have shown me that only technology innovations can deliver us the weapons to win the "war against poverty". How corny, how true. Our investment in Pagatech, that is bringing untold financial services to 100,000 people in just 8 months, would not have been possible with mobile phones. In Nigeria, mobile phones brought communication and, more importantly, information to 96 million handsets in less than 10 years. Before that there were less than 300,000 fixed lines and hardly anybody could ever get a dial tone.

Information leads to knowledge, knowledge opens new opportunities and, by extension, wealth. But vital ingredients are missing. Enablers like power and infrastructure for instance, to convert these opportunities into wealth. The leapfrog technologies required to make a real difference to these are different from many innovations in health, microfinance and education that are using existing technologies (mobile phones) as a channel to deliver better services. Enablers need big thinking and huge changes in technology and yet stay relevant and realistic. It's a tall order, but one that Singularity has the promise to scale if any.

Worst case I come back to investing in Africa in 4 months with a more open mind to what technology can do. Or I start the next MTN for power. Who knows? I'll be sharing my journey and finding ways to make it yours here so stay tuned!