Columnists Features

Internet of things, a good life


HAVE you ever found yourself in a situation and place where you meet a person you least expected to meet? Maybe you were miles apart and boom, your paths cross?  At that very moment, the world becomes a small one. And ‘flat’ indeed. Yes it is. So small it is with these exponential technological achievements.

We are by far more advanced from industrial age that made Ford, Toyota, Rockefellers and others become world billionaires. A month’s journey turned into just-a-few-days’ journey into reality by the invention of a carburettor that was soon to propel an automobile engine.

Wagons that were either pulled by domesticated animals or steam engines became secondary. For once, people were able to traverse by land from one point to the other in an efficient and inexpensive way.  Well, that was the age then.
But this is an age which is so exciting. I am thankful that I belong to this our age. Maybe Charles Dickens’ poetic words from his literal works of “A Tale of Two Cities’ are a fulfilled prophecy for the present age when he said, ‘It was the best time, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us…”
The world is so easily interconnected. Technology has just made science fiction a reality. And it has made less ado for anyone wanting to create wealth.  You don’t necessarily need physical assets such as land as it were during the industrial age to make wealth. Then it was all about physical labour, but now it’s about having an idea, a unique idea and it can beget you wealth. I am not saying land is now invalid. All I am saying is that one needs not much physical assets in order to create wealth.
In the industrial age, one had to take many years of labour or through family inheritance to be considered a rich person. Thankfully, this is not the case today. People get rich as young as in the early thirties. Just with a software disk in their hands, they get destined for Silicon Valley. Bill Gates once crossed the Mexican border, and when asked to declare his assets and when he presented a bunch of floppy disks wrapped with a rubber band, the customs personnel thought he was meeting a lunatic before he let him go without apprehending that those disks contained prototype of Microsoft Windows 95 worth millions of US dollars.
From Yahoo, Facebook, WhatsApp to Amazon.Com applications, the world has seen how internet of things (IoT) has become the hub for creating wealth. But the sad part is that Africa, as usual, is a laggard. We are always latecomers and are always sceptical about anything developmental. So, I understand why we still cry about erratic rains, or low prices of copper. We need a technological hub. A pragmatic one. The Zambia Information and Communications Technology Authority (ZICTA) should not just be seen to be policing information and communications technology (ICT). It should be proactive and create a platform for young people to grow their technology skills.  
ZICTA should also engineer for free or inexpensive WiFi Zones, for as many as possible if they are already doing so. Hotspots should be placed in certain public places. And maybe an ICT initiation programme for school-leavers as they wait for their results. Three months’ wait is a long time that kids can do some serious catch-up on what is trending technologically. Just basically for them to see the world as it is.  And I don’t think one needs to be in school for a four-year ICT undergraduate course. That is way too much. In fact by the time they graduate, the information learnt would have become obsolete. Technology is changing every 24 hours.
Needless to mention that wristwatches are back. This time, they’ve been rebranded as smartwatches. Take for instance an iWatch, it’s a remarkably capable device; an amazing tool for everyday life. With it, one can check emails, answer calls, track their road run, get direction, connect to the car, use it as camera view finder, find lost iPhone, send Facebook messages, and monitor one’s heart rate, among others. I am aware that one insurance firm in South Africa gives its health or life policy clients a smartwatch as a gift so that the clients can track their fitness levels.
When thieves broke into my house in broad daylight when everyone was away and got away with a television set, I embarked on a journey that made me discover how the ‘internet of things’ can keep you have a surveillance of your household goods via some app on an android phone.
Yes, we may not produce sophisticated things. Maybe that’s why we laugh off at Africans like Professor Clive Chirwa when they urge us that together, we can make it even as they point at some technologies they have engineered in Europe. But surely if an individual such as Bill Gates has created wealth equal to or more than our country’s gross domestic product just by using ICT, shouldn’t we as a country be making such strides?

The author is a media and communications specialist.



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