A lot has been said about the youth of today, and the term youth is used here in the universal sense, because we all seem to have finally acknowledged that we do live in a global village. During the days of my youth, a letter was the shortest direct distance from Lagos to New York – a telegram, or a trunk call. The only other faster alternatives would have to be linked from Lagos to perhaps, first Lisbon, and then on to London, before finally arriving New York – if it didn’t also pass through Newfoundland, or Nova Scotia! At least, the letter was ‘par Avion’, or Air Mail, and flew direct, Lagos – New York, trans Atlantic. The rules have since changed with the intervention of the Internet. Mail flies now at the speed of the ‘send’ button on a computer or a hand held cell phone! Communication around these parts wasn’t always so easy. Back track to the nineteen eighties and before. Making that trunk call would mean going to a NITEL (P&T) office to queue up for a private telephone booth, with the operator close by, probably eavesdropping on every intimate second! A few short years after that, many of us would run to some Lagos Island backstreet, trying to make fervent contact with that relative of ours far away in a distant land – again the queue was as long as the environment was dangerous. Fast-forward again – this time to the early years of mobile connectivity, those humongous Motorola handsets that looked like a throw-back to the days of Dr. Who? Big, ugly was the fashion theme back then! Shortly after, of course, there were the more modern, slinkier Star Tac models, with that tiny ‘pull out’ aerial that always managed to break off, somehow. After that came the days of the Intercellular and Multilinks dominance, when it became status symbol of sorts to carry your desktop phone about with you as hand luggage and even make a show of it in traffic – which was pretty cool until the lengthy service charge came along and you had to make that unavoidable, unfortunate trip to the Intercellular and Multilinks offices on Victoria Island, Lagos with breakfast and lunch, and probably a pillow in tow – six hours were the least it took to make a payment, if you were lucky to complete it that same day! Have you forgotten when we all had that little gadget strapped to our belts called a Pager? A lot of young men who had never tucked in their shirts for a minute of their lives suddenly found it couture to do so! And the ladies too – what was the point having a pager, and keeping it hidden in a handbag? Infradig!
The pagers serenaded the introduction of companies like Econet Wireless (same thing as Vodacom, Vee Networks, V-Mobile, Celtel, Zain and Airtel) and MTN into Nigeria and the start of a mobile revolution. By the way, someone should go meet the Senate overlord, David Mark and ask him what his feelings are now that both rich and poor people seamlessly share the usage of his ‘For Only The Rich’ gadget! But I digress, for even then, those early mobile telecom pioneers still took a Mickey out of us – I remember purchasing my first hand set and SIM card for almost N60,000! Shouldn’t we all be refunded for the outright daylight robbery? Or perhaps we were all just too happy to finally get to prove Mr. Markus wrong! Times truly have changed. These days I have a ‘who’s who?’ list that I follow on Twitter, I have daily conversations with all my old school buddies on Facebook, I run a daily blog that shares all my personal and professional thoughts to a worldwide audience, I read all the newspapers and magazines printed in Lagos, London, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Atlanta, New Orleans, Sydney, Adelaide and Toronto, every morning. (My vendor still doesn’t understand why I refuse to buy papers from him anymore!) I read bestsellers online, literally print my own articles, upload or download pictures and videos at will, have my own international audience, speak with world leaders and presidents and columnists and football superstars and rock icons and top actors, practically follow everybody around the world, and meet pretty girls every day. Does this mean that the end of the world is in sight? Perhaps a clearer explanation can be found in this rather lucid article I caught on the web recently. Permit me to share.
This is how tomorrow’s children may end up learning the alphabets: A is for Apple. B is for Blackberry. C is for Chatting. D is for Download. E is for Email. F is for Facebook. G is for Google. H is for HP. I is for Iphone. J is for Java. K is for Kaspersky. L is for Laptop. M is for Microsoft. N is for Nokia. O is for Outlook. P is for Pinging. Q is for QWERTY. R is for Rapidshare. S is for Skype. T is for Twitter. U is for USB. V is for Vista. W is for Windows. X is for XP. Y is for Youtube. Z is for Zukerberg. When we first realized a dramatic societal change was upon us a few years ago, we called it the “Age of the ‘Yahooligans”, much because we couldn’t understand their faster, sharper, thinking process. Like Maurice Saatchi, the great guru of modern advertising observed: “A modern teenager in the thirty seconds of a normal television commercial, could take a telephone call, send a text, receive a photograph, play a game, download a music track, read a magazine and watch commercials at times six speed. They call it continuous partial attention, CPA”.
Well, there is now a newer generation of makers, doers, inventors, venture capitalists, bloggers, policy makers and revolutionaries – the “Cheetah Generation” as the Ghanaian economist, George Ayittey has called them. They are the hungry grassroots who have been let down by their governments. All they want to do is reshape the continent. They’ve been in North Africa, they are combing through the Arab world. And they might be coming for you. Watch out, David Mark!
God’s guidance, always!
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