Zubair Abubakar: How i Built One of Nigeria’s Most Successful Mobile Applications
With a daunting resume which highlights’ being a web/mobile application developer, a social entrepreneur and a volunteer, Zubair Abubakar has proved to the world that Nigeria is equally as ICT erudite as her western counterparts. He holds the record of developing the most successful App ever created in Nigeria. i.e. the Nigerian Constitution Blackberry App. Within 72 hours, 10,000 downloads had been recorded. He is also a TED Global 2007 Fellow.
A Bachelor’s Degree holder of Computer Science from Ashesi University Ghana, Zubair is proficient in computer programming, software engineering, web and mobile application development. He helped build one of Nigeria’s biggest information portals, connectnigeria.com. He also developed other high impact solutions such as; Patient Management System, Web based Voting system to mention a few.
1. What inspired you to develop a Nigerian constitution mobile app?
I was learning how to develop mobile appications for blackberry phone at the time when I started thinking of the “killer app” to develop and fortuanetly the hard copy of the Nigerian Constitution was around me then, so I started asking myself what it would be like to have the Nigerian constitution on mobile phones. The thought of the possibility was exciting and the impact it stands to create in and out of Nigeria was a motivating/inspiring factor and was the fuel to the fire that created the App.
2. Why did you make it free?
At the completion of the project I wasn’t sure of the acceptance and after talking to friends I decided to release it for free to test the waters and see the level of acceptance amongst Nigerians. And later I began to see that with more and more people with access to the Contitution on their phone they can be encouraged to read it and there by know about their rights. Therefore I decided to still leave it free so that more people can get access to it. As at October 2011, i’ve had 29,000 downloads
3. Where and how long did it take you to learn how to create mobile applications?
I started learning about mobile application development from my University days at Ashesi University during my final year project where I wanted to develop a home automation system that allows one to turn off/on domestic devices anywhere in the world with a mobile phone. So since then its been four years even though I didn’t do any mobile application development in the last 3years. (so in sense, I’m trying to get my groove back)
4. Has the release of the constitution mobile-app opened up opportunities for you? Please explain?
Yes, the development of the Constitution has opened up other opportunites for me, a good example is the opportunity to work on the Nigerian Vision202020 digitization project, which was to convert the Vision202020 document into a mobile app. Also people have been contacting me to develop apps for them. The App has also partly gained me a fellowship at the Fate Institute for Venture Design.
The Constitution App on a Blackberry
5. What are you involved in now?
I am currently a fellow at Fate Institute for Venture Design, training to become a high impact entrepreneur.
6. What are your future plans for the constitution app and for your career?
One of the best things to happen to the Constitution App is the recent grant awarded from Indigo trust through the Co-Creation Hub to support the roll out of the 2nd version and for other major phone platforms. Therefore, in the near future the App shall be updated with the recently approved amendments, it shall be available on Blackberry, Nokia and Android platforms. There shall also be a mobile web forum where people can discuss or ask questions on issues concerning the constitution.
I strongly believe in I.T as a transformational tool for Nigeria and Africa at large and I believe we are up to the task. One of the transformational symptoms we shall be seeing (or already partly seeing) is the out burst of tech start-ups. As a strong believer in technology and start-ups for economic transformation, I plan to found as many tech start-ups as possible and also create an enabling environment for other start-ups to thrive.
7. How would you rate the Nigerian technology and innovation industry?
I would say the industry is still very young with many untapped talents and opportunities, although growing at a gradual pace as different start-ups are springing forth gradually. I believe the pace is about to change for great, with the coming in of venture design and incubator’s such as Fate Institute for Venture Design and Co-creation hub.
8. Is there a strong market for mobile-applications in Nigeria?
Absolutely, yes there is a strong market for mobile applications. there are approximately 150million Nigerians and as at June 2011, Nigerian Communications Commission says there are 104,529,828 mobile(GSM) subscribers, so even if this number is slashed by half, its is safe to say that mobile applications have a market of about 60million including SMS based application for non-smart phones.
So long as the App is local and relevant, the developer shall in no time be heading for a fortune.
Zubair at the TEDglobal2007 conference in Arusha, Tanzania
9. What’s your advice for young people interested in mobile-applications?
Wow, first thing I want to say is – please stop waisting time and start building (local and relevant, e.g niche based apps) apps now!!!, Nigeria and Africa is about to experience a mobile Apps revolution and the developers are going to make a lot of money and impact, so please, please and please don’t be left out, join the band-wagon immediately. Please contact me if you are interested in mobile application development and together lets transform Nigerian and Africa the best way can. I wish you all the very best and look forward to hearing from you.