The #WeAreNigerianCreatives happening on Twitter continues to prove how vital and relevant it is, not only to Nigeria’s creative space but to Nigeria’s development as whole.
The brothers, Taslim and Abdurrahman Salaudeen, students of the Federal University of Technology, Akure (FUTA joined the hashtag movement with a post about their app, upnepa.ng.
According to them, the app seeks to tackle the lingering electricity problem that has plagued Nigeria for decades. The app offers real-time information about the current state of power supply within a particular vicinity.
NEPA (National Electric Power Authority) was a public company owned and operated by the government. NEPA’s mandate was to provide constant electricity to every part of Nigeria but they fell woefully short of that. The organisation’s sluggishness in its capacity to generate enough electricity, compounded with the fact that demand for the utility was on the increase due to the many growing cities in Nigeria and the mismanagement and non-profitability of the company resulted in the government privatizing it and renaming it Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN).
The brothers got their app name from “Up NEPA!” a shout, wildly popular in the 80’s and 90’s in Nigeria, used to express joy at power being restored.
The Salaudeen’s utility app provides a new way of power sharing. The app notifies you when there’s light in your vicinity and if there isn’t, it gives alternative options such as someone with a generator on. The app also gives updates on the power supply in different locations using smart sensors and crowdsourced information.
Through the app, the company affords users the ability to monitor the total supply of electricity in communities and also review its electricity supply timeline.
The app which was developed last year in FUTA and is now available in FUNAAB, has already gotten 5000 downloads on the android play store. The brothers have announced plans to release an iOS version very soon.
One of the main highlights of the app is its ability to give a cost estimate of power being consumed in a vicinity. This helps people to be able to have a sense of their energy cost and take steps to have a more energy efficient consumption.
The founders are self-taught programmers, a common theme you’ll see in Nigerian developers’ circle. Taslim manages the business side of things while his brother Abdurrahman handles the development side,
It’s not easy to come across local tech solutions in Nigeria, as most developers try to imitate foreign tech solutions. However, there seems to be an ongoing evolution where developers have started building tech products that suit Nigerian climes and looks to solve the country’s many, lingering problems.
The power problem in the country always has Nigerians seeking for the nearest place to power up their electronic devices when they are down. The Upnepa apps helps solve that by alerting users of the nearest location where they can power their devices. The app also allows users in different locations to communicate with each other and make enquiries on electricity supply in their neighbourhoods.
Nigeria was ranked as the second worst in power supply among 137 countries by Spectator index. This proves how abysmal Nigeria’s power sector is. As with many other things in the country, the power sector is in urgent need of a revolution. A homegrown platform like Upnepa while not yet a viable solution, is at least a step in the right direction.
Though the Upnepa app is a welcome, much needed answer to a persistent problem, there are concerns over users privacy. With user privacy becoming a big issue over the past week due to the Facebook and Cambridge analytica saga, people are more conscious of their privacy online. The Upnepa company will need to find a way to protect users information on their platform.
Two main issues that the company will contend with is if people will allow strangers to come over to their location to charge their devices and how accessible the alternative power sources in users communities are? User verification might be the avenue to use in scaling these hurdles.
The Salaudeen brothers have a tough challenge ahead of them as Nigeria has an enormous power problem but their Upnepa app gives us the sense that they are more than up to the challenge.