App developer and Project Director/CEO of The HORD Limited, Mr. Felix Rwang-Dung, has said that Africans need an “Ask an Expert Mobile App,” a mobile directory of experts, because it is a catalyst for knowleageable information that would enhance people’s personality and careers.
Although he said that funding may be a challenge in spreading the app to other parts of Africa, he is optimistic that it would excel.
What is this app about?
Ask an Expert App enables people to engage directly with experts from diverse fields in real time, for advise or insights in helping them to make informed and important decisions daily.
Our decision to embark on this project was as a result of various research indicating that access to knowledge was needed by the general public. And it is depicted in various ways from the value added services (VAS) SMS subscriptions to the use of Google, Bing, etc. Looking into this need more closely and thinking of better ways this general knowledge could be better packaged, made more easily accessible, interpretable, timely and, most of all, encourage more productivity in people, especially many who are in the the social media bubble, resulted in the Ask an Expert project.
Ask an Expert App will enable people connect to established experts in real time to get insights, counselling, consultations, coaching, mentorship, expertise, advisory and also customer services from organisations, to be able to make more critical and informed decisions daily.
Google does a similar thing, as a search engine, yours is just adding a face to the search; do you think this will really inform business decisions?
We are adding far more than just a face on our solution. Google gives you general knowledge and information that for most people is still more confusing to apply to practical situations in our daily lives, you can be bombarded with millions of suggestions on how to achieve the same task, therefore, we believe this causes more confusion to people than it helps them achieve the desired result.
Since we are in the information age, we have so much material readily available to us beyond just Google, the hierarchy started with just data, then information, which enabled more knowledge. With Ask an Expert App, users can go a step further practically to seek wisdom and understanding directly from those who know it. We interpret wisdom as knowing the exact steps to take or knowing what to do at any critical point that can be crucial towards one’s success or progress in life.
We are sure that by connecting people productively with experts who have passed through and gained experience in any given field, either as individuals or organisations, allowing this connection to share wisdom in a more convenient, easier, cost-effective and accessible manner will go a long way to enrich the lives of others positively.
People are always seeking ways to improve on their current situations and especially now with the general economic challenges, even workers can be smarter in supporting their organisations by asking the right experts the right questions and get best advise on any pressing issues. Google gives general information but does not enable practical guidance on most issues. People seeking the right experts from the convenience of their mobile devices will make quicker decision, save time and enrich lives.
What is the cost implication?
Ask an Expert App is a productive on-demand tool modelled as a value added service (VAS) through mobile network. operators, starting with MTN, using customers’ mobile numbers to get access to a one-shop mobile market place directory of experts across various fields and specialties. It is realtime, so people only see experts readily available and can engage at will via live chat. For customers, its a subscription-based service, either on a daily, weekly or monthly plan.
Once customers subscribe to Ask an Expert App, they have access to a marketplace of experts (both private and organisations) of diverse fields and specialities as a mobile directory of experts. The experts are arranged according to four different connection plans: Experts on Diamond plan are free , Platinum plan is the premium package, while Gold and Silver plans are less expensive packages, based cost, to ensure everyone is catered for, no matter their budgets.
People can now conveniently pay experts through a payment gateway based on the connection plan and a chat price set by the Experts themselves.
The live chats are, by default, set in a multiple of 10 minutes only and a timer counts down once the consultation requests are accepted by the experts based on their availability.
For experts, qindividuals or organisations (public and private), registration is free at this stage and we have taken time to compile a database of experts across different sectors, which we are inviting specially to join this platform and proffer value to needing customers.
The customers can only access the solution via their mobile devices, but for the experts, they can gain access from both their mobile devices or login to their personal web version app portal on our website.
How long did it take to develop it and what were the challenges?
Ask an Expert App took about 22 months to develop as a solution because it is an innovation, which we had to think through completely from the start from just an idea to ensuring the current cross-functional workable solution and model from a user perspective. It has been very challenging as we have faced various obstacles along the way since the entire business model is something very new globally, we did not copy any aspect of this solution from anywhere and our development team has done a great job of being able to interpret our ideas to reality.
As a team, we had to keep reinventing, researching and working to ensure that the entire solution meets global standards and better serve its purpose to our intended users in the easiest and most convenient way possible. We officially launched the app on October 1, 2016. However we have commenced our expert acquisition process via our web portal www.askanexpert.expert for experts to begin registration and we are very pleased with the current growth of our database and are conducting the necessary verification and validation processes for those who have been specially invited to join.
The other major challenge we have and possibly foresee in the immediate future is adequate financial funding and getting the right expert network support, which can easily make this product better positioned for success. For example endorsements and easy adoption especially among businesses and organisations to use it as an alternative to their current customer service desk engagements for enquiries about products and services. It’s been really tough getting this far for us as a small team but we are continuously striving and relentless in trying to secure the right partnerships and collaborations both financially and otherwise to help us position this product correctly in the market from the start.
Several apps have become icons on androids, with this, won’t it further affect phone capacity?
The mobile phone manufacturers are also evolving with the general technological advancements happening around the world so we can also see our mobile devices handling more and more capacity.
Our developers for Ask an Expert App have taken all of this into consideration to ensure the app is effective and efficient so that it does not use too much of the phone’s processing resources and this is one of the reasons we have taken our time in designing its architecture and functionalities to ensure all aspects of the app is developed to compete with the best apps globally.
We have also ensured our entire infrastructure is running on one of the most secured cloud service providers (Amazon Web Services) and the processing of request on the app is optimised to work efficiently on any enabled Android device (iOS version is currently under development) with the most acceptable payment gateways. All these steps are to ensure Ask an Expert’s ease of use and provides the best user experience possible.
How do you think communications will affect app development?
The mobile phone has remained true to its very core, that is, most successful technologies and apps we see today aid communication in one manner or the other outside other conveniences for social or productivity apps. People are constantly seeking more innovative ways to connect with each other and share experiences conveniently.
With the advent of various innovations currently used like Whatsapp replacing SMS services, Vibe and Skype replacing operator voice calls, these are called Over The Top (OTT) features, we will soon see that the communications world as we know it is fast evolving where app development will overtake the general traffic for communications between people. These services help people connect over the internet in a more convenient and cost-effective manner.
Ask an Expert App is also positioning itself to be strategic in following this trend by ensuring a more productive way of connecting people to experts for them to gain wisdom and understanding on immediate pressing issues in realtime to be able to make critical and informed decisions daily.
How do you intend to drive this app within and outside the country?
We are determined to make it a global solution like any other successful technology. However, we plan to roll out in Africa from 2017. The plan is to also enable engagement across borders, where you can just choose a country and select an expert (individual or organisation) to make desired enquiries. We are currently discussing strategies with a team for adoption in the Asian market. There is really no limitation to how we want Ask an Expert App to evolve, but first the focus is to ensure within Nigeria, Ask an Expert App is well established and provides the desired value amongst its users as a wealth creation platform.