In a presentation at TEDxAIMS on 20 January, Arthur Attwell argued that the idea that “technology spreads quickly” is a common misconception. As wealthy, technology-oriented people, it suits us to say “technology spreads quickly”, but for most people in the world, new technology arrives late and slowly. The speed at which technology spreads is of course relative to our individual perception of time and progress. If we choose to believe it’s quick, argues Attwell, then we risk building products that our customers can’t use.
From the talk:
For instance, we’re told and we believe that the mobile web is moving like lightning through Africa. Then why, according to our recent census, do 65 per cent of South Africans have no Internet access at all? Why, five years since M-PESA revolutionised low-cost banking in Kenya, do we still not have a mobile-banking service in South Africa that the poor can afford?
Last month, a report said that broadband access in South Africa had more than doubled in the last two years. Is that fast? Well, it sounds fast. But if we remove the celebratory tone from the press release, maybe it isn’t. Broadband penetration increased from 5% to 11% of South Africans. So, here’s the most revolutionary, democratising, business-enabling technology ever invented and in two whole years we shift the needle by a measly 6 per cent.
New technology spreads slowly.