Finding it difficult to walk in your digital platform shoes?

Technology has advanced so far and continues to shift and evolve at such a rapid pace that if we take a moment to contemplate how far we have come in such a short space of time it almost seems as though life was far simpler 20 years ago, when computers and fancy gadgets were reserved for geeks.  

But, as we enter the era of the 4th industrial Revolution, along with its disruptive technologies such as The Internet of Things (IOT), robotics, nanotechnology, machine learning, 3D printing and biotechnology there remains no doubt that these technologies come with their own unique set of challenges, the likes of which are completely new for most of us.  

Complex Problem Solving and Critical Thinking are needed now more than ever

As far as these technologies affect the workplace, the increasing complexity around systems and processes means that a whole new skill set is required to cope with the challenges that they bring.  These skills have come to be known as “Soft Skills” and according to the World Economic Forum (WEF) Future of Jobs Report 2018, Soft Skills such as “Complex Problem Solving” and “Critical Thinking” are needed now more than ever as we enter the new era of the 4th Industrial Revolution.   And the way things are dealt with at work as well as at home come with a whole new wave of problems. 

“There was an old lady who swallowed a fly”

These technologies also seem to rely on each other to be of any real value and when they go wrong, this invariably has the proverbial domino effect of causing one problem after the next each time we try to fix one issue with another.  What comes to mind in this instance is the children’s nursery rhyme and nonsense song, “There was an old lady who swallowed a fly”, which tells the story of an old woman who swallows increasingly large animals with the idea that each one swallowed will catch the previous one to solve the problem but the woman eventually dies after swallowing a horse.  The notion that this woman exhibited superhuman capabilities but was finally killed by the horse points to the fact that she could only control matters to a certain degree.  Seen in this light, when we try to use logic to deal with increasingly complex technology problems only to find that another glitch appears in the system, this eventually results in a system ‘crash’.  Here is where technology trips us up and we cannot walk properly in our digital platform shoes.

Your mobile phone will not work if it falls out of your pocket and accidentally lands in the toilet

Everyone loves the idea of moving forward into a world where technology improves our quality of life.  Smart phones and smart homes are designed to make our lives easier, right?  But, what do we do when the technologies that run our lives break down?

Perhaps there are a few things we need to bear in mind in the digital space of the new era known as the 4th Industrial Revolution:

  • The Internet of things (IOT) is not an infallible creature 
  • Digital banking systems do break down
  • Your mobile phone will not work if it falls out of your pocket and accidentally lands in the toilet

Three little black boxes

We cannot function in the workplace when our homes are in disarray.  Nowadays, with the aid of modern technology, many people work “remotely” or maintain an “office” working from home.  This has many advantages.  Working remotely also means that one relies heavily on technology to get the job done.  While I have a day job, I also run many projects from “home” and in this regard, there are three little black boxes that run my life but, they are not the kind they have on aeroplanes that tell everyone what happened when the plane crashed. 

In my world, these little black boxes are collectively known as my ‘lifeline gadgets’ and comprise my laptop, mobile phone and tablet.   But, when these little black boxes don’t function properly my ability to cope with regular, day to day issues goes flying out the window and never mind the plane crash, my whole system crashes and my entire life seems to come to a grinding halt.  One thing relies on another and for me to work effectively I need to keep things running both during the day in my regular place of work and at home where everything else happens. 

Having said that, turning to the home front, the world of digital banking is fantastic.  We should be able to buy whatever we need with the click of a mouse or the tap and swipe of a smart phone or tablet.  No need to stand in queues to do the shopping, buy airtime, data, electricity or water.  Just log on to your Internet banking platform and voila, do your business online, pay for what you need by doing an electronic transfer and you are sorted!

Lightning Crashes as my system goes down – Confessions of an agony aunt on digital failure

“Lightning crashes a new mother cries
Her placenta falls to the floor
The angel opens her eyes
The confusion sets in
Before the doctor can even close the door

Lightning crashes an old mother dies
Her intentions fall to the floor
The angel closes her eyes
The confusion that was hers
Belongs now to the baby down the hall” – “Lightning Crashes – LIVE” 

At home, the electricity and water supplies run using prepaid metres.  All we need to do to recharge is to go online and buy the required units of water and electricity.  And, so it happened that I had just been paid so there was plenty of money in my bank account to recharge and my Internet connection was working, so, I logged on to Internet Banking to recharge the electricity and water and guess what?  My bank was offline!  I couldn’t believe it!  This meant that despite this wonderful technology, I still had to get into my car and drive to the mall to buy the electricity and water units from the hypermarket. 

Yesterday, I went to the bank to cash a MoneyGram that my family sent me from the UK.  In these tough economic times, I am more than grateful for any financial assistance that happens to come my way.  This month has been difficult hence, I am relying on the extra cash to fund some of my expenses.  But, as things go, nothing is ever simple.  When I arrived at the only bank in the mall where I live that deals with MoneyGrams, I was informed that they wouldn’t be able to cash my MoneyGram since their systems were down and there was absolutely nothing that they could do to help me.  What?  I thought.  Isn’t digital banking technology supposed to improve our quality of life?    

Back in the day, when we still had negotiable instruments such as cheques, and systems ran manually and the branch manager was there to sign things off when processes went awry, the bank would have been able to cash the MoneyGram offline, and I would have walked out with my money in hand.  But, in the new era of digital banking, this is simply not an option.  So, I get the distinct feeling that things are now worse than ever.  The following day the bank’s systems came back online and I was able to cash the MoneyGram.  But, here’s the next thing, my own bank has now gone more digital than ever which means that the branches in my area have been closed and there is not a single ATM with a deposit function in the mall where I live.  So, how do I get the cash from the MoneyGram into my bank account so that I can keep my little black boxes running and buy more electricity and water?   Here is where the old lady who swallowed the fly had a problem.  It’s the proverbial Catch 22 situation.  For us to function in today’s world we need our three little black boxes to function properly.  With one of these black boxes, we can log on to the Internet to power our homes.  Yet, this is no good to us if we don’t have electricity to begin with.  It’s a vicious cycle. 

The next tale goes something like this:

There was an old lady who logged on to the Internet, everything she could get, by logging on to the Internet.  I guess she did right.

She logged on to the Internet to buy some data, so that in turn she could buy some electricity and water. 

But to buy some data, she needed her smart phone, but accidents happen and it fell into the toilet.  Now she has no smart phone to log on to the Internet, so nothing she could get, by having no Internet.

And with no Internet and without any data, she could not buy the electricity and water.  So, she fished her smart phone out of the toilet water but it was useless of course, so what has this taught her?

Helen Fenton, Senior Analyst, Business Optimization Training Institute (BOTi) – www.boti.co.za

Business Optimization Training Institute (BOTI) is a Johannesburg based, Level 1 BBBEE business.  As a Services and MICT SETA accredited company, we have trained thousands of individuals from over 650 companies and our extensive course offering consists of Short Courses, Soft Skills Training and Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) Learnership Programs.  In addition, we offer bespoke training programs designed to cater to specific business needs.  Our training courses are focused on knowledge and skills transfer and we pride ourselves in being able to provide training anytime, anywhere across South Africa.

Reference sources:

  1. World Economic Forum (WEF) Future of Jobs Report 2018
  2. “Lightning Crashes” by Live from the album Throwing Copper (1994)
  3. Wikipedia

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