A Discussion with Spatialnode’s Emmanuel Jolaiya

Emmanuel Jolaiya

Spatialnode is an emerging and diverse community of geospatial professionals looking to showcase their projects, build their online portfolio of work, enlist as talents for hire, collaborate with colleagues and access curated resources. The platform targets both aspiring and established GIS professionals at any skill level of proficiency and specialisation. Space in Africa met with Emmanuel Jolaiya, head at Spatialnode, to learn about the platform, including its offerings, aims and objectives, and plans for the future.

Can you give a brief description of yourself? 

My name is Emmanuel Jolaiya, and I am a geospatial software engineer. I have a background in GIS, I had my Bachelor’s degree in remote sensing and GIS from the Federal University of Technology, Akure. I’m currently in Abuja, Nigeria. I love community development and sharing knowledge. That’s where I have an interest, aside from doing GIS. I also like using technology, skills, and knowledge to solve pressing issues. I love building projects, so when I innovate and develop an idea that I feel could solve a problem in a particular industry, I love to build it. Generally, I consider myself an innovative young man.

What is Spatialnode about? 

It is a platform where people with GIS skills or in the GIS industry can showcase their work. GIS is a growing industry, but the technology is not widely adopted yet. One of the problems Spatialnode is trying to solve is offering visibility to the GIS industry, such that even someone without GIS knowledge can go to Spatialnode and see what is happening in the industry at a glance. GIS is used in a lot of industries and projects, but sometimes we don’t really know because it is usually behind the scenes, but with output like maps that come from the projects, either side projects or high-impact projects,  you can put them on Spatialnode and the world can get to see. 

Additionally, we are In the age and world where a portfolio is becoming a criterion for getting a job. Recruiters want to see what you have done and not what you say you can do, so one of Spatialnode’s objectives is to solve that problem for the geospatial community such that they can create an account and display their maps and projects easily, then you have a unique URL you can put on your resume or send to potential recruiters to see your works. 

Another idea of the platform is also to give people inspiration. Sometimes, you learn something and need to solidify your knowledge but don’t really have an idea of what projects you can work on. From Spatialnode’s homepage, you can see different projects and maps from which you can gain inspiration to solidify your knowledge and enrich your portfolio.

Another objective of the platform is to help people get hired based on their skills which are difficult to prove on their resume/CV. We want to make it easy for people with skills to get recognition and priority. Employers can see the maps, the thoughts that went into their creation, and the methods, software, plugin, etc., that they leveraged. Users can also post a link to any external resource accompanying the project. All these things would increase people’s chances of getting a job.

You mentioned that Spatialnode is a free platform; how do you generate revenue from it

Currently, Spatialnode’s basic version is what is out there for people to upload projects, and we receive feedback from them and tailor it to their needs. We are working on the pro version with key features that will provide revenue. Some of these features include uploading multiple images per single project, attaching links, allowing people to contact you, integrating google analytics, and selling goods because your portfolio can also be your shop.

Regarding the market feature, we initially included a chatbox for feedback, and people have been reaching out to us that they want to buy maps. However, because we are not the maps’ authors, we do not and cannot sell maps. Because of this, we want to create a store on the platform for map authors to sell their digital maps easily. These features will be open to pro users, who will be subject to in-app verification. There are several features we intend to release in this third quarter, but for now, Spatialnode is still entirely free.

Are there any other factors that inspired Spatialnode other than the ones you’ve mentioned? 

Making people in our industry show people what they are capable of. Our focus also wants to be on the people in the industry, trying to ensure that their careers are enriched, and make it easy for them to access and discover opportunities- get jobs, get hired, access curated and quality resources, and improve their skills. The industry’s future is the people, if they are not enriched, they can’t really build anything that will solve global problems. Our focus is on the people, and we will still build more products to enrich the people. As I said, I’m interested in community development, which is a key driver of this.

Tell me a bit more about the MappyChallenge? 

The goal is to promote collaboration, innovation and creative thinking in the community. We partnered with Geoluminous Co Ltd. to run a one-month challenge to promote and charge the industry to create maps and projects and get a reward for it. Some people are already making maps, the idea is to compensate them for the work they are doing. And for those who are slacking, to charge them to wake up, join the challenge, get their portfolio active and get a reward for it. We partnered with Geoluminous Co. Ltd. because they bring map arts to life as mappy products.

The winner gets their items transformed into something visible, a frame, a journal, or something that can be turned into something usable, so the person can be more inspired to keep at creating maps. Spatialnode is trying to focus on the people and things that get them excited to stay in the industry.

What other road maps do you have in mind? 

After the pro version, the job and talent filtering feature is the next priority. The pro-plus or pro-business will be for organisations. The GIS industry doesn’t have a central node for jobs. We are working to release that feature where organisations can post their jobs. And we want to make sure they are qualified and verified jobs. That will lead us to work on our final feature, making it easy for people to find opportunities via the platform. This takes time, but you will definitely know about it as we release them.

What challenges are you facing at the moment? 

The community has been very supportive, and the adoption of the product is mind-blowing. The challenge we are facing is trying to get things right before we push them, delaying the release of some of the features. I don’t see it as a challenge, but if one can categorise it as a challenge, then that’s one of the challenges we’re facing. Another challenge is with resources, we are bootstrapping, and things are not getting cheaper. It keeps reducing our budget, so we need to get the pro version out quickly to generate revenue.

How do you see the geospatial industry developing in the future, especially in the African landscape?

The geospatial industry is rapidly growing, one of the fastest growing industries. In foreign climes, for example, the startups there close a lot of investment rounds almost every month, some even before they launch. It is a promising industry because everything we use in this world now needs location intelligence; everything happens somewhere. In Africa, we have startups in the geospatial space, I believe the future is promising. Although, most of the industries that use GIS in Africa don’t really know they use GIS. But, If more startups in the GIS industry can build products that a common man can use daily, I believe we will be getting there.

I think most of what we currently do is project-based, so the GIS people here don’t really build their ideas. I am sure that years ago, someone had written a research paper that proffers solutions to the flooding problem in Lagos using GIS and remote sensing, so we have the talents and brains; what’s missing is turning these ideas into viable products for people to use even beyond Africa. And mind you, we don’t lack application, GIS is applicable in numerous industries – Agriculture, Finance, Entertainment, Energy etc. We just need to work more on innovations. Finally, we have a long way to go until we have people who are not afraid of failure. Because I believe we all have ideas, but many are not building them probably because they are afraid of failure. If you can think of it, build it.


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