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From the editor's desk: Making an aaS of ourselves

28 August 2019 News

First of all, I must extend the sincere apologies of Technews Publishing to Hi-Q Electronics. We have worked closely with Hi-Q for many years and yet still managed to get its address and contact details wrong in our Electronics Buyers’ Guide (EBG) 2020.

You will find a bookmark inside your copy of this month’s magazine with the company’s correct details. Please insert it into the copy of EBG 2020 you received together with last month’s magazine, so that you have the correct details if and when you need to contact Hi-Q. We have also corrected the online version of the buyers’ guide.

Now, to elaborate on the meaning of this column’s title, the as-a-Service (aaS) phenomenon has been on my mind a lot lately. The first exemplar of the species that I became aware of was Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), whereby software is hosted in the cloud and licensed on a subscription basis. Fast forward just a few years, and Wikipedia now classifies no less than 45 as-a-Service models. Some of the most familiar include banking, infrastructure, mobility, payments, security and transportation.

I was privileged to attend a fascinating talk by tech entrepreneur Stafford Masie at an AREI (Association of Representatives for the Electronics Industry) business breakfast recently. Among the things I took away from that was his emphasis on the fact that when a technology truly flourishes and delivers its true potential is when it becomes invisible.

A good example of this is GPS. The first time I ever heard of it was when my father’s friend, who was a keen hunter, had one specially imported from the USA, at an astronomical cost. I can’t remember why exactly he felt he needed it but presumably it was a convenient way of keeping track of the best spots to murder animals for his personal amusement.

I come from a generation when you dared not drive a car without having a map book in the cubby hole. To any millennials who might be reading this, it would take too long for me to explain what a ‘map book’ was; you’ll have to google it. For those of us who travelled a lot, like I did, it could be the difference between life and death, so I bought an updated one every year at a not insignificant cost. And that only covered the Johannesburg area, so some people would have needed different map books for more than one area if they travelled widely.

Before setting out on my first ever road trip from Johannesburg to Cape Town, I decided to buy a Garmin – I would be traversing completely unfamiliar parts of the country and I only had a small car, so there just wasn’t enough space to store all the map books I would have needed and still have room for luggage. My Garmin, by comparison, was about the size of a modern smartphone.

Now we all have that same GPS technology (only better) packaged into our phones, and it’s given us access to things like Uber and Mr D Food at our fingertips. Some Uber drivers multitask by driving for other ride hailing services too, and deliver food on the side. You can even hire a chef to cater for your dinner party, or a musician to entertain your guests, using similar as-a-service models.

Some experts are saying that this ‘gig economy’, this offering of ourselves and our skills as a service, is going to be one of the most transformative aspects of our lives and our jobs in the years to come.

While that sounds like an exciting future in some ways, we also risk deepening the ‘digital divide’ separating those with access to technology and those without. Which makes it even more imperative that government stops paying lip service and addresses the challenges of delivering broadband Internet access to all citizens, and soon.

Brett van den Bosch

Editor



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