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Innovation? Think again

By XN Iraki | September 1st 2021
Old man using smartphone [Courtesy]

The older generation is more fascinated by the new technology than the digital natives - those who grew up with the internet and technology. They can recall the post office, banking halls, the landline telephones, firewood and water wells. 

The youngsters have nothing to compare with. Yet we assume that they should be more appreciative of the innovations and underlying technology.

To the younger generation, mobile phones, the internet, camera phones, or something mundane as a fridge or gas cooker are nothing new, they found them when they were born! 

The older generation might think the digital natives are thankless as they have it all. But they have nothing to compare with, no past without modern  technology

The disconnect between the two generations is found in the workplace where the elderly are more concerned about procedures and bureaucracy while the youngsters only care about the end product or service delivery. After all, software exists for most procedures. 

The two contrasting views means that innovation should not be viewed as universal. It depends on who  is using it. That explains why innovations may not be as effective as envisaged.

An elderly man appreciates mobile phone because they lived without one or waited till evening to make calls or even made calls from a neighbor‘s house. The youngsters concern would be why someone doesn’t have the latest smartphone or is not on Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat.

What we think is innovation might not be so to others. That has implications on productivity. We would expect access to computer and networks to make us more productive, but digital natives see that as normal, so why are they expected to be more productive?

The older generation might not understand why someone can’t pick a call on a mobile phone when they had no phones. They can’t understand why someone owning a car can be late when they used buses and kept time . 

This “used to it“ might the reason firms and individuals spend so much money on technology or innovations without a commensurate improvement in productivity. The cultural part of innovation has not been given enough attention. The difference between a mulika mwizi (basic feature phone) and a smart phone is not the price, but how someone uses it - for communication, status or gaming. 

Have innovations made you more productive or it’s just kawaida to you? Talk to us. 

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