The founder of Oakland and Johnson, Johnson Anorh, in this interview speaks about the potential in the Nigeria’s technology space. Ugo Aliogo brings the excerpts:
Can you give an insight into the aims and objectives of Gage awards?
Gage award is an award that has been created to recognise and reward excellence in the digital space. The award focuses on rewarding innovations that happened within a particular year. You will recall that there are so many interesting things happening today in the tech space in Nigeria. Look out the fintech space today, there are many fintech startups doing financial transactions. Do you know how much friction these start-ups have helped to ease in our system? In a society, where you have lots of logistics and infrastructural problems, digital is helping to create an impact that will drive growth generally. Before now, if you want to buy certain things, you have to move from one place to another, sometimes you must factor in traffic and lose time in the process. But today, in the comfort of your home you can make purchase for any product of your choice online and it will be delivered to you. So, that friction that used to exist between us and our desires have been collapsed by digital. It is a very valuable space for us as Nigerians.
What do you think of the Nigerian environment?
Our environment is a big lab. It creates a kind of opportunity for innovation to strive. Innovation strives in the midst of challenges.
What kind of innovation takes place in the digital space?
There are a lot of innovations that take place in the digital space that are mostly not spotlighted, until the Jack Ma’s of this world come in and give a handshake or throw in some funds. People work very hard and carry out so many interesting innovations that have not attracted the right kind of funding and the type of interest it should attract, sometimes they lose steam or they are not inspired. What Gage award has done is to come up with a platform that will put them in the spotlight, help drive the pace of innovation in the Nigeria digital space, accelerate growth and attract new talents.
What are the award categories for Gage?
The awards cover five key areas inspiration, innovation, information, commerce, and entertainment. These five key areas are the areas that impact the lives of the average human being. An individual is likely to be interested in any of the five key areas. Out of these five areas, we have created 24 categories of awards; five of these categories are audience driven. What that means is that we are not the ones to select who wins the Gage awards in those categories. But the audience whose lives are being impacted daily through the activities of the startups or brands. Like, the ‘Bank App of the Year,’ the audience can testify better about how a particular bank App has helped in making financial transactions easy. Today in the banking space, we have 24 hours online banking which has given people the opportunity to do banking services at anytime and anywhere, while some banks have done well to keep improving their Apps some have been calamitous; they are not responsive and stuck in the mud.
We will put the best bank App on the spotlight, and it will help the customers make a choice on which bank to use or bank with when making that decision. With the Gage awards all five nominees are already winners considering the fact that we have over 20 banks in the country. Other awards in the audience choice category includes, ‘Breakout App of the Year, Online comedian of the Year, Artist of the Year, you would be surprised how much digital technology have helped put Nigeria in the global map of entertainment. The Artist of the Year is not restricted to only musicians, but any artists that have used the digital space to push the frontiers of their trade or has used the digital space in a most innovative way to push their work out there to be appreciated.
The GAGE Awards have the Website of the Year, Content Creator of the Year, and Online News Platform of the Year. You know the pace at which news break, people are losing more and more trust for the highly revered medium, with GAGE Awards we will spotlight the most reliable news platform that provide authentic news, with strong investigative background, so that people will know where to go to verify their news. We also have Online Advertising Campaign of the Year, Entrepreneur of the Year, App of the Year. There are so many interesting things happening in the country, especially in terms of App development and growth. So many Apps have come to make life easy such as Uber, Bolt, Gokada, Jumia, Konga, O pay, O ride, and others. These Apps are driving commerce and businesses.
The Gage award is coming up February 22. This is the maiden edition of the award, but we have spent three years planning for this award. For three years, we have been working behind the scene to put the award together because we understand what we are presenting to Nigeria. This award is a gift to Nigeria because of our eroded value system.
Today, there are certain awards that are public relations tool. People give out awards to certain individuals because those individuals have offered some amount of money or to curry favour. Those awards do not reflect the true state of what is happening within a system. People are given awards because they are able to influence the organisers, Gage award is not like that. Within the three years of putting the award together, we setup a group of panelists that are very influential in their field and have made impact in their industry.
These groups of panelist will be judging some categories that are not audience driven. For instance, we cannot say website of the year will be audience driven because the information that will help in picking the winner is not available to the audience or the audience may not give too much attention to it, such as user experience, structure navigation, visual design and others. So we have selected a group of panelists that are good in different areas, to judge accurately some of the categories that we have earmarked. We also have PwC as the assurance partner to ensure that the criteria that were earmarked at the beginning of the award is adhered to strictly. The brain behind this award is not a non-governmental organisation (NGO), even though there is an altruistic part to it. We infused it with some commerce to keep the award running and to ensure it goes beyond the maiden edition. And beyond commerce there is a part that says that it has come to help spotlight the best. The award was founded by Johnson Anorh and some other brilliant minds working behind the scene to give Nigerians this gift.
How did you come about the name ‘Gage’?
The name is from Engage. On the digital platform we are constantly engaging.
What are the prizes lined for the winners?
Like I said, we are putting the most interesting things that happened on the spotlight. It is a spotlight award and it is not meant to give X amount in prize money. It is an acknowledgement for hard work, giving attention to your craft. Maybe in the future, a sponsor can propose that online comedians will receive a car or something. We are not ruling the possibility of a sponsor presenting something to the winner in any of the categories of interest. One significant thing about award is that it is constantly improving.