Guest blog: In pursuit of a new paradigm

Alan Knott-Craig jnr at PM's FutureTech conference held on 25 October.
Date:31 October 2012 Tags:, , , , , , ,

By Alan Knott-Craig jnr

“The new source of power is not money in the hands of the few but information in the hands of many.” Naisbit

I have many fears in my life. My greatest fear is for the safety of my wife. After that, my daughters top the rankings. I fear physical harm to them. I fear emotional harm to them.

But the fear I experience every day is that my daughters will come to me in fifty years and say, “Dad, what did you do try make things better?” and that I will not have an answer.

It’s not hard to conclude that the world, and our country, is on a downward path. Open the papers any day and you see some crazy stuff going down. Murders, corruption, wars. It’s enough to make you lose your faith in humanity.

I remember when I was a teenager; I watched a documentary on the hole in the ozone layer. The conclusion was that we’re all screwed because the ozone layer will soon be gone and then we’ll be forced to wear blue gel-like sunscreen whenever we go outside to protect us from UV rays.

Of course, this worried me. So I went to my dad and asked how we’re going to survive. His answer: “I don’t know, but don’t worry, everything always works out in the end.”

Very scientific, but turns out he was right. Everything did work out, the ozone layer grew back!

I’ve adopted this philosophy for most of the challenges I see in life. Especially the future, because it really has been difficult for me to see how the world can avoid self-destruction.

But not anymore. I figured out the answer.

All the problems of the world are made by people. Specifically, the decisions made by people. And people make decisions based on information. And in the history of mankind, information has always been controlled.

Until now. Until the arrival of the mobile phone. The mobile phone has changed the game.

Why? Because it lets people communicate with one another, anytime, anywhere. Twenty years ago there were 5 million landlines in SA, and zero mobile phones. Today there are 4 million landlines, and 60 million mobile phones.

It’s a new paradigm.

More than allowing people to communicate with one another, mobile phones allow people to access the Web. The ultimate source of information. The Web can’t be controlled. Not even China, with 1,3 billion hard-working and smart people can control the Web. The Great Firewall of China is The Great Joke of the World.

The Web can’t be filtered.

Of course, information freedom is awesome, but the next big hurdle is economic freedom.

Physical cash is a poverty trap. Being able to move money around electronically is the key to economic freedom, and whilst Africa is the epitome of this prison, MPesa has already shown that mobile phones are the answer.

Information and economic freedom will save our children’s future. And the keys to unlock that future are as follows:

  • Mobile phones
  • The Web
  • OTT applications

Phones in Africa are like water in USA. People can’t live without them. And Africa is more like the world than the USA. Most people in Africa do not have smart phones. Less than 15% of the 700million phones on the continent qualify as a smartphone. The rest are dumb.

What that means is that these phones need a helping hand in order to connect to the Web, and seeing as the Web is one of the keys to information freedom, we have to solve that problem.

Fortunately, the problem has been solved. That’s where OTT (Over The Top) services are important. Companies like Opera and Mxit enable dumb phones to access the Web. Apps like Mxit take it a step further and allow people to cheaply communicate with each other regardless of the handset being used.

BBM is for Blackberries. WhatsApp is for smartphones. If you are to have a truly connected world, the answer is handset-agnostic apps such as Mxit.

The good news is you don’t have to do anything, the future is already happening. Sit back and watch whilst hundreds of millions of people all over the world connect to the grid… you can get on with your life knowing that wave has started and can’t be stopped.

The great news is that our kid’s future is brighter than our past.