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SA firm assists with Nigeria’s first business directory

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Imagine needing a plumber, electrician or mechanic and not having the resources to find one – no yellow pages or Internet directory.

This was the situation in Nigeria until the E-Motion Advertising team, assisted by White Wall Web, a South African software development company specialising in web-based applications, begun working on Gyst.com, Nigeria’s first local business directory.
Gyst aims to provide small- to medium-sized business owners with cost-effective online advertising. Business owners have the option to easily register their business for free via the web, or claim their business if it is already listed. Gyst allows businesses to manage and update all their business information themselves, helping consumers to source providers of products and services online, while also helping providers improve their marketing efforts.
Stemming from a need to create a comprehensive database of local businesses, a team armed with BlackBerry smart phones took to the streets of Lagos photographing and capturing information for as many businesses as they could. This information was then fed into the scalable Gyst technology platform and verified with the business owner before displaying on the Gyst website in both text format and on a Google map.
Users can search for businesses by a wide variety of criteria, including specific products, type of service or business name. Gyst has also integrated social elements, allowing users to submit reviews of businesses and share listings with their friends via Facebook.
“Gyst will put powerful local information at the fingertips of Nigerians” comments Sim Shagaya, MD of E-Motion Advertising and owner of Gyst. “We have already gathered a broad set of listings for Lagos and will soon reach into other cities across Nigeria to create a local search directory of unprecedented breadth and depth. We are making this information accessible via mobile, Web and human assisted voice channels.
"The mobile web is proving enormously popular in Nigeria. I expect that in the medium term it will become an indispensible part of the lives of Nigerians and Africans, and Gyst will play a critical role in making this happen.”
The Gyst business directory was written in Ruby on Rails, a rapid and extendable development framework favoured by many start-ups. It allowed for the system to move from a prototype to production-ready in a short space of time. The application was developed in small increments using an Agile approach and thereby allowed the client to give rapid feedback throughout the development process. Google Maps was used to integrate geo-location data from the Blackberry phones and the Facebook APIs were used to provide the social media interaction.