By SAM WAMBUGU
It’s no longer business as usual in our tech-driven world. We are expected to constantly upgrade, learn new features on gadgets and improve — all this in a short window of time. Many companies are migrating their customer service operations to digital, and expect you to get the first level of assistance from automated services. If this practice annoys and confuses, brace yourself for more disruption.
The apps running on your devices are constantly upgrading to fix glitches or bring on board new features. You don’t have much say on whether to upgrade or not: the app upgrades sometimes happen stealthily in the background. These sneaky upgrades eat into your data — the reason you have those mysterious and abrupt decline in your data bundles.
We are constantly being tempted and touted with new hardware so profoundly promoted to make you feel that if you don’t own the latest device, you are outdated, inferior, and missing out. This creates a mad dash to acquire the latest tech fad — phones, computers, tablets and the like. This is a never-ending cycle that keeps tech companies’ business booming, sometimes to our detriment.
Welcome to the era of chaos, disruption and confusion. And we don’t even seem to have a good grasp on what to expect — because as soon as we think we do, the hardware and software morphs to something starkly different.
Take for example the World Wide Web. Twenty years after it was birthed, the web has spread its tendrils so wide and roots so deep that we can’t even start to comprehend it. Its presence is felt at almost every enclave; every village; every valley and slum. The data transfer speeds may vary, but internet services are no longer an exclusive domain of the deep-pocketed or supremely skilled.
Thankfully, technology is also an equaliser. Contrary to the popular belief that online activities are dominated by the young, recent studies reveal contrary findings: the average age of people online — globally — is more than 40 years.
Although in many low-and middle-income countries there are more men than women online, taken collectively, 51 per cent of netizens in the world are women. Women turned the tables in 2001. When women in developing countries finally close the current gender gulf, women will be the online pace-setters.
Moving forward, what do these tech trends portend? Internet is the new cool place to work and hang out. It is where we spend time working and socialising. It has nearly everything we need. It’s a busy place.
Every second, approximately 6,000 tweets are tweeted; more than 40,000 Google queries are searched; and more than 2 million e-mails are sent, according to Internet Live Stats, a website of the international Real Time Statistics Project.
Internet has trillions of pages. And what is stupefying is, internet has only been alive for about 9,000 days. Internet is the place where we play online games, listen to music, read news, buy and sell anything and everything, connect and communicate with the world.
Everyone needs skills to distil information that we need to thrive in this digital era — no short cut to that. Without the subtle skills of a savvy netizen, we will be lost in this massive maze. We will be stressed, derailed and worst, we could be exploited by the street-smarts of internet.
The government has a major role to play in creating a system through which citizens can acquire digital skills and get empowered to partake in the tech-produced goodies. It should establish institutions such as community centres where individuals can acquire basic tech literacy skills.
Besides, the government should give incentives to encourage more people to get online. Such include stable electricity, reliable broadband communication, demonstration centres and supportive tech professionals. Without this foundation, the Big Four agenda is building on quicksand.
The writer is an Informatics specialist: Samwambugu@gmail.com @samwambugu2