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Building Sustainable Ecosystems: Innovation

December 20, 2019ByKonstantinos Papamiltiadis

In the 1600s, the concept of "innovation" was controversial. It stood for resistance, rebellion and contrarian opinions. Thankfully, the definition of innovation has evolved. One of the definitions for innovation is the desire and ambition to leverage technology to solve problems for people. As the definition of innovation has evolved, so has the approach to solving the problems at hand. Innovation is not driven by a brilliant individual or a team locked in a lab running experiments. Instead, it is driven by the global community of problem solvers that are coming together to tackle the challenges of the present. Let me share more about the role innovation plays as a critical pillar --in addition to community and education-- in helping develop a healthy tech ecosystem.

We deeply believe Facebook's own growth was the result of our effort to innovate and disrupt ourselves. Our ten-year roadmap enables innovation in three distinct phases:

  1. First, we build new technologies that can help people share and connect in new ways.
  2. Next, we take that technology and build it into a product that billions of people can use and benefit from.
  3. Finally, once a product is at scale, we build a full ecosystem around that for developers, businesses and partners.

I am excited about the experiences being created leveraging those products and in particular in places where the number of challenges outside the availability of sustainable solutions. Africa is one such region with incredible opportunities for both people and innovators alike. Here are some creative ways partners are leveraging our products to solve challenges across verticals with technology:

FBS is an international forex broker present in more than 190 countries with over 13 million traders and 370,000 partners. FBS receives a number of queries on a range of topics everyday. Customers contact them with sales enquiries such as quotes about rates between currencies and customer service issues. They needed a platform to unify their customer service across multiple Facebook pages and languages. A key challenge they faced was their ability to support 13 languages and efficiently route the messages to the right people in the multilingual team. Due to the nature of the business i.e., the fluctuations in foreign exchange, they needed to respond very quickly to their customer's trading and service enquiries to avoid undue losses.

They partnered with Ongair, a Kenya based Messenger platform development provider that enables businesses to manage customer interactions across multiple social channels, including Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp. They aggregated all customer service and sales inquiries from their country specific Facebook accounts into a single platform via messenger. They also deployed a bot that understands the user’s language to then respond back in the appropriate language and also hand over the conversation to an agent who speaks the same language. Prior to this, a multilingual team had to triage customer requests leading to inefficient delays in responses or incorrect assignment for resolution. Today, Ongair agents are automatically assigned tickets based on the customer languages they can speak leading to faster and more accurate responses. Through this partnership, FBS has been able to greatly increase their first response time and improve customer satisfaction.

TrepLabs is a team of young college students on a mission to make affordable medical devices. With a proof of concept in hand, their goal was to build a prototype of their first product RealDrip, a non-invasive device which makes blood transfusion and drip treatment simpler and safer by continuously monitoring the flow rate, volume administered and automating the treatment process.

As part of the Facebook Accelerator program, the engineering support and guidance they received helped create a device that leverages the IoT technology to eliminate the guesswork in setting IV flow rate, monitoring dosages and time taken as indicated on the treatment plan. In addition, GraphQL APIs’ help create visual displays via mobile and web dashboard showing the flow rate in real time to keep health professionals informed about each patient’s specific medical situation. Since their participation in the Facebook Accelerator program, they have developed a working prototype which has been patented. They have raised $62,778 in grant funding, have 27 clinics on a waiting list, secured ethical approval from the Nigeria Institute of Medical Research (NIMR) and are awaiting approvals for clinical trials.

And finally, Cellulant a digital payment platform from the region shared with us recently about how they have used Facebook APIs to enable micro merchants and revolutionize the try before you buy customer experience in categories like home goods, make-up and more, all serving as critical & incremental steps in helping build businesses.

The successes shared above only scratch the surface of the potential that exists. As i’ve shared previously, we believe in the importance of investing in all the 3 key pillars --innovation, education, community-- for building a sustainable developer ecosystem. I am confident that these continued investments will spark more innovation, energize economies, create new jobs, improve communities, and drive positive social impact around the globe.

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