Catch 22 : NITDA and Data sharing culture among Tech companies in Nigeria

03/09/2018 | 664

The success or failure of many Tech companies including startups in Nigeria is dependent largely on credible data; what kind of data is possessed, how reliable it is, and most importantly, how to mine and harness the potentials.

Even though Nigeria is a nation of 180 million people, according to the 2016 population census estimates by World Bank, there is a massive discrepancy in the addressable market. The number of people a company can target realistically is close to a million. And many startups share this same customer base. For instance, a customer of MTN may also use Glo Mobile. Also, we know many merchants on Konga also sell Jumia.

Why then can’t companies share information among themselves to solve similar problems and grow faster?

By regulation businesses especially financial institutions like Banks and Insurance companies are mandated to perform KYC. So someone that banks with GTBank and ow0ns a car will have it insured with Niger Insurance. Both firm need his bio-data, why don’t they utilize a central api call to access such individuals KYC information?

Take OneFi, the parent company of PayLater, who has been battling with credit rating. In their report, they noted how females have been defaulting on money borrowed out. Is there a way for them to rate a prospective borrower before giving out money?

If you approach someone to borrow money, they must know something about you. What job do you do? Do you have a savings? If yes, how often do you save? Have you borrowed money before? And effectively, did you pay back on time or they had to chase you all over?

While Paylater collects your bio data, they have no way to know if you have borrowed before. Or do they? PiggyBank, just like CowryWise is a FinTech startup that helps you make better financial savings. Over an agreed period, they will automatically deduct a certain amount from your account. They have your savings data. Paylater needs that data. Why can’t they both share data?

The same people who save are most likely the same who want to borrow. Single source your data.

Let’s also consider Hotels.ng. In  2015, they held a hackathon to help understand which users will abandon their orders before checking out. And we can postulate that those who book hotels online also buy items on ecommerce stores. Each of these entities would have amassed a large amount of online consumer behaviour data. Which will be valuable for testing hypothesis and product decisions analysis can be made faster. Why isn’t there a data repository they can dump data to and comb through to gain better insights?

Many startups have come to the realisation that machine learning can help deliver better service through personalised recommendations and. What would Spotify be without ML? And ML is a numbers game. The larger your data, the more accurate your model becomes. And if there is a central repository, everyone benefits.

I know, you may say having data and hoarding it is a competitive advantage. I mean, why should I share the data that I spent substantial time and capital harvesting? Who pays me for the hard work? But let’s come to an understanding that many companies (and startups) are built on open source softwares. And teams who release those softwares garner far greater value in return from the community.

In Comes NITDA

The National Information Technology Development Agency controls data sharing among companies in Nigeria. They regulate what can be shared between company and how extensive it can be. Every year, they release a guideline to this order. And in the latest Data Protection GuideLine of 2017 , section 14 subsection D. explained as follows:

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NITDA 2017 Data Protection Guideline Section 14 D.

We can read from the above that while the legitimate Data Collector can use the data, he can also share it with others. The caveat is that you should notify the Data Provider in this case the registered user, that you will be sharing the data, and ensure that you get consent - clicking a “Yes, I agree” on a Privacy Policy on your page will do the trick.

To avoid the sticky mud of this guide, do not publish personal and bio data online. Stripe off anything that has name on it, and emails, and addresses. As long as it can’t be used to trace someone online, it’s shareable.

The Government in effect has recognized the importance of data sharing by creating enabling regulations, why then are Tech companies and innovators not sharing?