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Demystifying the Digital Economy

  May 27, 2014

By Dr Anderson Uvie-Emegbo

There is an urgent need to align Africa’s economic growth with true development that trickles down to the streets.

As key players in developing responsible leaders and managers, African business schools (and indeed educational institutions) need to play a greater role in driving sustainable development that breaks the cycle of social injustice and social inequality that continues to plague many African nations.

With these in perspective, an international audience of about 100 leading faculty, deans and institutional partners from over 25 countries gathered for the Association of African Business Schools (AABS) Connect Annual Conference held at the iconic Strathmore Business School, Nairobi between May 18-20, 2014. The conference was a truly integrated media affair as all sessions were live streamed via Google Hangout while the hashtag #AABSConnect2014 was used to drive robust conversations between a global audience.

I was privileged to speak at a session on “Integrated Education – Business Schools in the Digital Age”.

I argued that the ongoing disruption that digital technology brings has not spared the education sector. Availability of massive open online courseware (MOOCs), mobile learning tools, changing role of teachers and the changing needs of businesses and societies, are forcing schools to transit from teaching innovation to demonstrating leadership in innovation and change.
Specifically, my focus was on “Creating a Connected Business School? Use the 5Cs”

Here is an overview of some of the things every school needs to consider:

Research shows that for those studying a 4-year technical degree, half of what they know will be outdated by their 3rd year of study. (Frightening don’t you think?)

Will the training on offer prepare today’s graduates for tomorrow’s marketplace?

Are we creating thinking and doing students or simply students who are copycats?

Are we ready for both current business needs and future challenges of our customers?

A few days ago, a friend tweeted the following:

• “Is there an app for that? That is the question everyone asks when you give a task to perform”

• In response to the question, “what is the purpose of life”, a guy responded, “I don’t know man. The computers are down or I would google that”.

Hilarious but this raises some fundamental issues for every organization and I will attempt to address a few of them here:

The Consumer is the Kingmaker

People have a global perception of value and are spoilt for choice. They want the power to determine the “Whats”, “Wheres” and “Hows” of your offering.


• If the consumer is at the heart of your digital ecosystem, would you let your true customers help shape your next product, service or advert?

Consumers are the new Community Custodians. Everyday over 130,000 Kenyans and Nigerians collaborate using the Twitter handles @Ma3Route (Kenya) & @Gidi_Traffic (Nigeria) to ease stress by providing “on-the-go-traffic” updates in Nairobi and Lagos respectively.

As Consumer Advocates, many amplify the complaints of other customers. The Hashtivism campaigns #TwitterBigStick and #TwitterThumbsUp(Kenya) and #BringBackOurGirls (Nigeria) are very successful examples of how to get decision makers to do what is right.


• The best customer engagement and reputation management strategy is one that ensures prompt service recovery in the short term while demonstrating evidence of working to correct the maladies in the medium to long term. Social media is not the enemy. The enemy is within!

Everyone is in Customer Service and Marketing.

A chance encounter can help to attract or retain a customer if only each employee takes ownership of customer issues when and where they (employees) find same and follow up internally to ensure that the issue(s) is/are satisfactorily resolved.


• Retool your customer model to develop intimacy with the customer.
Forget Digital Media, Think Digital Business!

Mature digital brands recognize that profitable digital innovations arise when the focus goes beyond building the brand or mitigating reputational damage.


• A cross-functional, firm wide approach must be taken to ensure that all relevant stakeholders play a role in ensuring that digital profits the organization. How involved are your Finance, Human Resources, Strategy, Operations and Products teams?

• Don’t let an incident become an issue, then a problem and eventually a crisis.

It Begins with BIG Leadership!

The first step in profiting from the digital ecosystem is for decision makers to choose between “GOING BIG” or “GOING HOME” . To create a Digitally Competent Business, courageous executives envision BIG, display a willingness to let go of their BIASES and work to create an ENABLING ENVIRONMENT that can give digital a chance to succeed.


• How healthy is your Digital Business Model?

• What will be your organization’s source of competitive advantage going forward?

• Do you have the right digital leadership in your organization?

Internalization Challenge

One of the greatest set backs to profitable optimization of digital innovation is a failure to effectively engage the workforce. We must internalize before we externalize.


• What’s your strategy for turning your employees to cheerleaders – offline and online?

• Does your organization’s culture support digital innovation?

• How digitally literate are your employees?

Big Data Everywhere But Poor Customer Relationship Management

Different teams in an organization have a fragmented, disconnected view of the customer. In contrast, the customer has a single view of the organization. The result – service inefficiencies!


• Organizations need to create systems and processes that allow a single view of the customer.

• Set online performance metrics based on agreed business goals and not on vain metrics.

Social Intent marketing

“The ability of a brand to send real time offers to customers based on what they are currently saying or doing on social media sites”is one of the biggest opportunities digital offers. Digitally mature organizations are using insights from passive and active customer data to create “Surprise and Delight” moments.


• Organizations must remodel their businesses to be responsive. Your customers are ready for Mass Individualization/personalization – are you?

So What’s Next?

The choice is yours – to “GO BIG” digitally, you must turn up the heat and get to work. Otherwise it is time tojust “GO HOME”.

About Author

Dr Anderson Uvie-Emegbo aka “the Digital Doctor” is a leading African digital economy specialist, innovation architect, social techpreneur andeducator. He is an International Faculty at Strathmore Business School as well as Adjunct Faculty at both the Lagos Business School and the School of Media and Communication, Pan Atlantic University, Nigeria.

He tweets @andyemegbo and can be reached via email on . His personal website is

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