In this interview with Temitayo Jaiyeola, Founder, Iyoba Land, Ehi Binitie on why Nigerians and Africans should be excited about the metaverse and what it has in store for the continent
For a lot of concepts like Web 1.0, Web 2.0 and now Web 3.0 are wrong. But this is the evolution of our interaction with the Internet. As an expert, can you simplify these concepts and how they shape and shape our interaction with the internet?
In the technology industry, these terms are only used to mark major evolutions of the Internet, in the same way that we refer to the agricultural, industrial or information ages when we refer to civilizations. Web 1.0 is considered the first real phase of large-scale Internet adoption through e-commerce. The ability to be able to purchase items through a computer was a huge paradigm shift that changed the way business was conducted. It ushered in many new technologies and transformed the Internet from a fringe platform used in libraries and universities to something everyone used to make their lives easier. Search engines were essential as they made it easy to find e-commerce vendors and we can see how Google and Amazon rose to prominence. Web 2.0 is mainly marked by the advent of social media. The change here mainly concerns the users providing the content. Giving individuals the ability to create content and distribute it to the public changed the way advertising was done and the power structure shifted to the companies that provide such platforms. Social media connectivity has affected politics, business, and the way we communicate with each other across the world, which has pushed the internet forward to its next evolution. Web 3.0 allows content creators and owners to show proof of ownership, by securing content with cryptocurrency. These new platforms will allow an explosion of business models allowing artists and creators to further enhance their creations, not to mention the many ways to showcase this content in augmented and virtual reality environments.
The metaverse is the next frontier of virtual reality. Much of what we have in the physical will be recreated virtually. Many people fear that this will doom physical interactions, what do you think?
I think we have more to worry about the evolution of viruses than the metaverse suppressing physical interactions, but on a more serious note, I think a lot of unnecessary physical interactions will go the way of the phone booth. The office space is already experiencing this with remote work. I also strongly believe that our idea of physical interactions as we know them will soon change, as we are able to trick our brains into feeling, tasting and smelling digital objects thanks to new virtual technologies already in the works.
Can you walk us through some of the use cases for the metaverse?
A true metaverse should allow users to connect to different worlds or spaces, communicate with other users, and maintain their avatars and ability to bring and use their digital assets in those worlds. Entertainment is currently the most common use case for the Metaverse, but being able to vicariously experience the experiences of others is very powerful, as we’ve seen since the rise of reality television. Allowing you to experience a sky jump, a trip to an exotic city without all the risks and costs that come with it or being able to escape gender or racial stereotypes will change the way we interact with each other as a human race. Many currently use the Metaverse for events attending classes, conferences, concerts, and church gatherings, but being able to collaborate and do things on the job in the Metaverse will be key.
Meta estimates that the metaverse will add $40 billion to sub-Saharan Africa’s gross domestic product within a decade. But internet connection in Nigeria and Africa remains a challenge. Broadband penetration is below 50% in most countries and smartphone penetration is lagging behind. How will Africans access the metaverse while we are still struggling for internet connection?
Interesting points but I remember in the early days of web 2.0 many thought we in Africa would be left behind but somehow we were able to reach out to some of the most prolific content providers and consumers in the era of Web 2.0. Nigeria has nearly 110 million internet users and ranks 8th in the world despite these challenges. I think global connectivity will continue to improve, and it won’t be an issue that hinders adoption. I have already met many people in the metaverse who are employed full time and paid from Africa in the metaverse despite these challenges.
According to research, around 12.5 million VR headsets were sold in 2021 globally, with the market expected to reach 70 million units sold by 2026. The report said the best-selling Oculus Quest 2 sells 299 $, which is way beyond the scope. many Internet users in Nigeria and Africa. How can Africa overcome the cost barrier to adopt the metaverse?
I think VR lounges and cyberbars might be mouths of waiting like cybercafés used to be, but I think soon devices will continue to merge and value will be measured differently. If you don’t have to commute to work, own a laptop, phone, and cable, the price seems cheaper. When you don’t have to buy a plane ticket or pay for a hotel because you’re attending a virtual conference, you can also see the business impact. We are currently in the car phone stage, bulky and almost considered a luxury item, but that will change as technology advances.
Meta invests heavily in the metaverse and a lot of metaverse innovation is driven by the west. Even though MTN has recently purchased land in the metaverse, how do you think African companies can also drive innovation for the metaverse?
This is an excellent point. African companies can spur innovation by subsidizing adoption costs, just as they have done with mobile phones and subscription content. Creating presences in these spaces will make it easier to reach their audience in ways that weren’t possible before and will be of great value, much like online chat and support in Web 1.0 and social media in 2.0. Investing in platforms that focus on African content is key to ensuring the continent continues to progress in this space.
Can you explain Iyoba Land to us?
You can access Iyoba Land by visiting iyobaland.com. It is a platform that enables African digital content creators to present their content in 3D virtual environments accessible in the browser and immersive virtual reality environments accessible in Meta Quest headsets. Creators can upload their content to virtual galleries hosted by us and can sell digital items on our platform for consumers to use in the metaverse. Our goal is to attract African digital creators and be able to share our African stories in virtual experiences. Iyoba Land is also available on the Meta Horizon World platform. Our Iyoba Land World features the story of Queen Idia and recently won Best Story in Meta’s Horizon Builder’s Launch Pad competition. We are currently working on our next release for Meta’s Horizon World which is based on a virtual music studio that will bring afro beats into the Metaverse and called Naija Studios. Our mission is to archive African culture in the metaverse using interactive experiences.
Nigeria and other African countries import a lot of software despite a booming software development industry. Nigeria spent over $1 billion to import software between 2020 and 2021. What can be done to improve software development on the continent?
Location is the key to usability. Although imported software may have great functionality out of the box, you have to spend a lot of money to customize it to work with local languages, customs and ideologies. Cloud-based platforms that focus on local markets, stellar customer service, and reliability are essential for this. When I am in India and China, I am always amazed at the number of platforms used daily by locals that have no equal in the United States. Nigeria has unique problems that can be solved by our local software developers and can be very helpful due to the size of the population.