Sunday March 17 2013

‘Madness’ that is IT innovation mania

The new Samsung Galaxy. PHOTO BY AFP

The new Samsung Galaxy. PHOTO BY AFP 

By Timothy Kalyegira

Samsung and Apple are at it again. Late last week, Samsung released the latest version of its Galaxy S4 smart phone in New York City, intended to compete with the American giant Apple in the high-end market.

The new Samsung phone will be distributed to the rest of the world at the end of April. Samsung already dominates the lower end of the market worldwide, now the world’s largest maker of cell phones. It has, however, failed to break Apple’s stranglehold on the large and lucrative US market, where the iPhone dominates.

This is Samsung’s plan: To take on Apple on Apple’s own home base, after their bitter court battle last year over charges that one or the other was copying (or stealing) the designs of the other.

I spend much time doing research on global trends on the Internet and on international television. I’ve written before that when I see the increasingly complex innovation by the world’s leading technology companies, when I see all those super-smart minds out there in the West and East Asia, I wonder about countries like Uganda.

I do not see any hope at all that we are going to compete with those Asians and Whites any time soon. We simply lack the consciousness, the technical skill, the burning ambition, the infrastructure and the backup capital to start.

Most of all, we lack the minds. The more I study the thinking of the West and the rising Asian economic giants like South Korea, Taiwan, China and the established Japan, the more I see what’s wrong with us.

Chinese experience
I first saw this in Beijing during the 2008 summer Olympic Games and wrote about it at the time. Africans are simply too plain ordinary to be a factor in the world today and tomorrow. We are just too plain ordinary and “normal”.

Our deepest goals, investments, ambitions, dreams and attitude is of the plainest kind. Even the best-paid middle class Black Africans and Black Americans, for whom comfort, means and money are no problem, the goals in life are the usual, plain, simple ones. Our lack of extraordinariness, I believe, is one reason for the historical lagging behind among Africans.

In a funny way, the only Africans I’ve ever seen whose personalities come close to being like Europeans and Far East Asians, are the few with mental illnesses in places like Butabika Hospital just outside Kampala.

The people whom Ugandan and African society usually mocks or dismisses as “mad” (and many are “mad”), when I talk to or listen to them, are the only Africans I know with the strangeness of ideas, flights of thought, unusual perspectives and for the bipolar types, the driving energy to approximate what we see in the West.

This leads me to ask if mental patients in Africa are actually ill, in the true sense of the word, or the explanation for the great innovation we see in Europe and America is because most of those Whites are actually borderline crazy.

It can’t just be about “thinking outside the box”. This is more than just being an outlier. To create some of the features we see on the latest smart phones, you need to be close to crazy to even start thinking along those lines.

The new Samsung Galaxy S4 phone comes with a feature where you can start or stop a video clip just by looking at it or turning your eyes away from it.

Google’s fibre optic Internet cable, now being tested in selected cities in the United States, carries data at 50 times faster than the current fastest speeds in the West.

You would think that with a market valuation at over $227 billion and the co-founders already billionaires many times over, Google would run out of the hunger to innovate. But they just go on and on and on, from Google Fiber to Google Glasses (an innovation that enables a 3-D viewing of data and logging onto the Internet), to the Google Streetview cars for their maps.

Top drug or smartness?
There must be some top-secret drug hidden somewhere, known by very few people, probably developed by the CIA or some shady organisation like that, which is administered to some of these people in California’s Silicon Valley, that enables them to think at that maniacal level well beyond what we are capable of in Africa.
Or in Japan and Korea, a similar drug might have been developed that is kept a closely guarded secret.

To keep creating these new technologies (3D printing is a new technology that is about to enter the global mainstream with results that we should all be frightened of), by people who live within the same 24-hour time cycle like the rest of us, they have to have highly unusual minds, minds that think in the same hallucinatory way we associate with mad people.

There are technological and digital gadget websites I regularly visit and what I find there alarms me. It is well beyond what we can grasp or describe in Africa. It is these experiences that have me concluding that we parents are wasting our time and money.

Not even the best, most prestigious, most “exclusive” schools in Uganda, Kenya, Nigeria, Gabon, South Africa or Namibia have what it takes to create the technological mindset that will give Africa any chance on the world technological stage.

In the next five years, a 25-year-old South Korean boy lying on his bed at home will be able to shut down Uganda’s entire banking, electricity, Internet and external telecommunications systems for two weeks, causing the country to come to a standstill, stirring up massive protests.

Our strait-laced, straight forward, common sense, practical minds as I see them in Africa will, at best, keep us as the respectable clerical class that wears ties to office and does the bidding of the great world powers.

They have no capacity to compete in the 21st Century dominated by people who, taking an evening walk, see the sun setting over the horizon and suddenly get the idea of inventing graphics software, rich in colour, for the new iPhone 8.

If the worst comes to the worst (and it will soon come to the worst), we might have to take researchers to mental hospitals in Africa to mingle with the patients there, and then take down notes of the disjointed things and strange visions they claim to see.

America has got a Black President and many Black mayors and governors, but the Whites now are nine times wealthier than Blacks. The difference is in White dominance of the Information and digital-Internet economy.

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New Samsung

1. Smart Pause/Smart Scroll: Samsung takes the Galaxy S III’s Smart Stay feature a step further, and senses when you look at the screen of the phone or away from it, automatically scrolling up and down websites and e-mails, and pausing and resuming videos.

2. Air View/Air Gesture: With Air gestures you can simply move your hand to accept or reject calls, change music tracks, browse the web and your photo galleries without actually touching the phone. Air gesture, on the other hand lets you preview emails, photos and other content by hovering your finger over the screen.

3. Group Play: You can transfer and instantly view or play documents, music files, photos, and other content to other Galaxy S4 handsets.It even supports multi-player games.

4. S-Voice Drive: Samsung adds a new interface to its S-Voice assistant to offer functionality when you’re driving.

5. S-Health: You can track your workouts, daily intake and weight, and monitor your blood pressure, and blood glucose levels with the app.

6. Temperature and Humidity sensors: The Galaxy S4 also features temperature and humidity sensors to know the current status of your surroundings.

7. Dual camera features: The phone allows you to simultaneously shoot with its 13-megapixel rear and 2-megapixel front cameras. So you can place yourself in a group photo while shooting it or give a peek of your surroundings while being on a video call.

8. Sound & Shot feature: You can capture up to 9 seconds of audio while capturing a picture to make it more interesting.

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