In what seems like forever, economists on opposing sides of the divide have put forward opposing pros and cons in discussing free market economies vs planned economies (socialist, communist, mixed economies etc.).
Note that the list of pros and cons also argue about responsibility for organizing the economic participants in each model. This article will not touch on the opposing views as interested parties can read up on Keynes, Marx, Samuelson and Smith etc.
For this article, I just want to draw attention to how technological advances are dramatically redefining social interaction including its impact on work and entrepreneurism.
Marshall McLuhan is credited with coining the phrase “Global Village” over 50 years ago (1962) which broadly referred to the interconnectivity of the world through mass media, internet (electronic technology) and travel.
In other words, “Global Village” is simply the term used to describe an increasingly complex and interconnected world, where citizens are able to interact with each other with almost uninterrupted frequency and at an amazing pace.
However, I’m almost certain that when McLuhan coined that term over 50 years ago, he could not have envisioned the degree of interconnectivity which exists in this present day.
To say that there has been an explosion of technological solutions resulting in an increasingly connected world since Mr. McLuhan first coined that phrase in 1964 will be stating the obvious.
However in recent times, mass media solutions and collaborative tools have been delivered and adopted at breathtaking speed.
To put it into context, very few of the popular solutions of today were available as recently as 25 years ago (e.g. Facebook was founded in 2004, Google was founded in 1998).
…..Hmnn, think about it, strange as it may seem, someone who is 25 years old or less would not have known that there was once a world without Google or Facebook!!!
These advances in technology only continue to strengthen my belief that the ideal society is one where willing entrepreneurs are able to successfully provide critical services to society in return for adequate compensation AND accountability. I .e. society where the social entrepreneur thrives
Let’s take a look at some examples:
(1) Technology solutions for mass media, (fondly described as social media). Basically these solutions perform a social function of facilitating communication. In addition these enterprises are also employers of labour but ultimately services being provided to society are being monetized such that the founders and shareholders are also enjoying financial rewards of some sort (think Facebook, Google +, Yahoo, Whatsapp).
(2) Another category of solutions would be the ecommerce solutions. Again these solutions perform a social function of facilitating trade, In addition, the enterprises are employers of labour whilst the owners also to reap financial rewards of monetizing the services provided (think eBay, Alibaba, Amazon).
I can go on and on (other services Square, UBER, Paypal, etc) but anyway hopefully you get my point, social entrepreneurs aims to provide solutions which will be beneficial to society but also yield returns which adequately compensate for risks undertaken.
Just to add that a new solution Periscope has recently launched in 2015. This is one to watch due to its massive potential to disrupt the all-powerful broadcast media (I’m definitely excited to how that plays out).
So why is this relevant in Nigeria?
Since inception, the Nigerian masses (Society) have relied on a few individuals or institutions (i.e. the Elite/Government) for their livelihood. Such that the average citizen treats holders of government positions with reverence typically associated with masters and their servants.
Some may justify this overbearing reverence by pointing out potential benefits which accrue from such idol worshipping no matter how short term the gratification may be.
From relying on Government to provide basic services, power, communication media, and logistics services to relying on the ruling “elite” to provide good paying jobs (such as banking, oil and gas, hospitals, law firms amongst others).
However the potential for redefining the relationship between citizens and government is finally here!
The “On Demand Economy”
For purposes of brevity, we’ll use a broad definition from the Business Insider as follows
“The On-Demand Economy is defined as the economic activity created by technology companies that fulfill consumer demand via the immediate provisioning of goods and services.” (http://www.businessinsider.com/the-on-demand-economy-2014-7#ixzz3c3fAfhMo).
- The Economist also had an interesting article on this also (see January 3rd 2015 Workers on tap).
- Even Twitter has a handle for this emerging phenomenon
- ( https://twitter.com/ondemandeconomy).In present day (2015), an abundance of communication tools providing real time information means a citizen based in Nigeria,
- Within the Nigerian Context, this new paradigm, offers tools for the savvy masses to finally unleash their entrepreneurship potential independently (i.e. with minimum dependence on the elite or governments).
- is able to acquaint him/herself of breaking news anywhere in the world (via 24 hour news and social media)
- can trade on any market in the world (via interconnected trading platforms) and
- bid for any job in the world where the jobs are not constrained by location (e.g. Accounting, Consulting or Legal services jobs)
Additionally, the availability of online knowledge centres mean citizens based in Nigeria, can now access more wide variety of educational material online than ever before anywhere and on any topic, simply logon and research.
Furthermore, the on-demand-economy offers sufficient flexibility that entrepreneurs need no longer be constrained by a physical location.
The observant readers will note that the on-demand-economy has literarily challenged the notion that successful entrepreneurs require large amounts of capital, extensive investment in knowledge pools and stupendous fiscal outlay in bricks and mortar for a physical location.
Thus the new on-demand-economy phenomenon simply suggests highly skilled members of society who are ready and willing to adapt to new technology with some capital outlay and a lot of hard work can become truly successful (without the elite and or government).
Just think back to 25 years ago, a world without
- Facebook (founded 2004) , Whatsapp (founded 2009), Twitter (founded 2006) for mass communication.
- No Amazon (founded 1994), PayPal (founded 1998) or eBay (founded 1995) for marketplaces & payments.
- No UBER (founded 2009), no LYFT (founded 2012) for transportation.In a nutshell, more tools and resources are increasingly becoming available to budding entrepreneurs whilst reducing capital outlay requirements (especially in emerging economies) and encouraging reduced reliance on the elite and government.To give some context, the table below outlines typical small business/startup expenses for which alternative solutions now exist for the budding small business entrepreneur (Table 1)
- However, make no mistake, efforts to maximize these opportunities will not be for the faint hearted. In this new economy, to succeed, a great deal of knowledge and technology skills are required from the entrepreneur in this age.
- Then look around now, a lot has been achieved to empower the masses to unleash their entrepreneurial capabilities. Even better as these services are available at a fraction of cost of their predecessors.
|Example of Small Business Expense Incurred||Traditional Economy||On Demand Economy|
|(1) – Rent / Location||Setup an Office, Shop||Start with create a website|
|(2) – Secretarial / Office Administration||Hire staff||Obtain Web Administration services, Maximize online orders,|
|(3) – Communications (Voice)||Telephone||Use Mobile, Use VOIP if available|
|(4) – Communications (Written)||Post Office, FAX||Use Text, Maximize Social Media apps|
|(5) – Advertising / Marketing||Newspapers, Agency, Hire staff||Maximize Social Media (including You Tube), maximize Web site presence|
|(6) – Sales costs||Hire sales staff||Explore online marketplaces
(eBay, Amazon, ITunes, etc.)
|(7) – Merchant Services||Traditional Banks||explore PayPal, Mobile payments|
|(4) – Delivery and Logistics||Post Office…||Investigate using logistics companies|