Currently celebrating its sixth-year in existence, and its second-year on the continent, Social Media Week (commonly abbreviated as SMW) officially kicks off in Lagos and a host of other cities around the world on Monday, February 17th, 2014 and runs till the 21st.

The weeklong affair is billed as a leading media platform that aims to “help people and organizations connect through collaboration, learning and the sharing of ideas and information”.

Since its inception in 2008, SMW has expanded to reach attendees in 26 cities worldwide – that include including London, New York, and Mumbai. With over 800 events scheduled for this year’s fixture, organizers project that turnout and active participation for this online-offline movement will be the most vibrant till date.

Last year, organizers selected the ‘Principles for a Collaborative World’ as the global theme – with Larry King, Richard Branson and a host of other celebrities serving as keynote participants. This year, given the ever-changing paradigms in our mediums of communications and interactions, the framework for SMW discussions – as chosen by the organizers is: ‘The Future of Now: Always On, Always Connected’

According to data provided by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), with a population of over 170 million people, Nigeria, with 58 million internet users has the single largest population of people online in Africa. Other sources, like the United States Census Bureau list Nigeria as the 7th largest internet-using population in the world. Because of this, social media has quickly become the largest and cheapest platform for individuals, businesses, and government to reach broad audiences to communicate ideas.

Many analysts believe that with over 33 percent penetration in the country, the spread of the internet has brought with it an ‘information revolution’ in Nigeria. Due to this, activists, celebrities and brands in the social media ecosystem have become household names, and their ideas are easily accessed through handheld devices and computers.

Alder Creative Intelligence, a leading brand development firm in Nigeria, highlights the role that social media has taken in the country in the release of the first edition of the Alder Social Media Report. The report, which will be officially unveiled to the public at an SMWLagos featured event, highlights the trends, mindshare and dominance of various individuals and brands in Nigerian social media.

Given the impactful oversight and outreach role social media played in the 2011 Nigerian general elections, politicians are also tapping into the power of the web, by setting up Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, and blogs to reach out to and relate with Nigerian youth, who occupy a vital 75 percent bloc of the voting population.

Given the aforementioned developments, in addition to: network providers in the country continuing to slash their data charges to remain competitive; the buzz generated by events like SMWLagos to emphasize the power of the internet, and; a population expected to climb by at least 2.8 percent according to 2012 World Bank estimates; it is clear that Nigeria will continue to remain a dominant force both online and on social media in the next few years, even as the online phenomenon plays a greater role in its socio-economic development.

– Olu Onemola wrote in from Abuja, Nigeria.

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