I have been awake for a total of ten minutes and too many things have happened to me already. It’s 3.50 a.m., the day after I promised to turn in this article. Somehow, I feel it is the fact that I had not sent in this article that woke me—my editor’s spirit haunting me. Why didn’t I send it last night, as promised? That classified intel is above your paygrade and strictly on a “need-to-know” basis. I’ll get clearance from Command and tell you in my next article.
For now, what I can tell you is that I stood up from the bed, checked the time on my phone, walked up to my workstation in my naked body to get my “spineless” laptop running while I hit the kitchen to perform a simple ritual which has become a sort of “new normal” for me. I call it “warm-water therapy.” It is a practice my Dad recommended to me after I complained of malaria to him some weeks before. Typical of African parents, there is always a solution up their sleeves. This time, it is warm-water therapy. He sold me when he said he couldn’t remember the last time he took an antimalaria tablet. I don’t know about you but where I’m from, when the man whose DNA runs through your blood tells you drinking warm water early in the morning helps keep malaria away, you’ve got to give it a shot and so far, it has worked. But we’re still in the test phase.
8 minutes have passed and I sit down to flesh up the skeletal article from last night. NEPA seizes power supply in a manner analogous to their ever-changing name—is it IBEDC now? Discouragement, but this guy is not one to give up. So, I grope in the dark to locate my legendary torch (another gift from my Dad) and get it in that mode where it gives light to your laptop keyboard only. Type away, Daniel, type away.
What a time to be alive! Claude Elwood Shannon (1916-2001), the father of the Information Age, formulated the notion of channel capacity in 1948. He didn’t think that it would only take a few decades before mathematicians and engineers would device practical ways to communicate reliably at data rates within 1% of the Shannon limit. It was Shannon who first talked about the possibility of quantifying information. In his 1948 paper titled “A Mathematical Theory of Communication,” Shannon proposed that data should be measured in binary digit—discrete values of ones and zeroes.
I will not bore you with the daedal details of Information Theory. However, when you and I look at our phone screens or type away in front of our laptops, send e-mails, make that Instagram Live video or send that tweet, we have Shannon to thank because he laid the foundation for what we now call the Information Age. Albert Einstein is popular for his Theory of Relativity but we are not in the Relativity Age. We are in the information age and it was Shannon whose work focused on how best to encode the information a sender wants to transmit. It is Shannon we should be grateful for such an incredible theory.
At least, people like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg should lead the gratitude chorus. Gates and Jobs, born within months of each other in 1955 were the first to cash in on the financial benefits of the Information Age. By the time they were 25 years old, they were old enough to tinker with computers and young enough to take risks. Microsoft and Apple are the babies they made from their intercourse with information. Zuckerberg is in my generation—Generation Y—a millennial who has also taken up the baton from the baby boomers and joined them in the Billionaire Gang.
Ladies, Gentlemen, and members of the LGBTQ Community, we are now fully, at least 60 years, in the Information Age also known as the Computer Age, Digital Age, or New Media Age. The age in which the knowledge worker is king.
As it is with every other technological advancement, Africa is usually the last to catch up. It took the COVID-19 pandemic to wake us up to this reality. Up till now, our systems are designed for the industrial age of the 18th and 19th century when factories in advanced countries are already implementing Industry 4.0—the new digital industrial technology that makes it possible for machines to exchange information with one another and self-repair.
On a personal note, it took a phone call from my friend in Fargo, North Dakota to wake me up to the reality of taking my sermons, lectures, and presentations to the online community. I used to think it was something that needed heavy equipment but I did my first Live Video with a 2-man crew in my other friend’s beautiful compound and with his wife’s phone camera. The rest is history.
The future is here. Schools are still closed down in Nigeria as at the time of typing this. School owners are groaning and lobbying for a reopening of the brick-and-mortar schools. Parents are already seeking alternatives. You would think a wise school owner would come up with a package that allows parents to pay for online training with the teachers the students are used to. Wait, that would require the teachers and school owners to know their way around applications and mobile devices. Perhaps, make a deal with a service provider that creates a closed user group for their school so that parents can have access to the school website, go to their child’s class and join the online classroom where other pupils and the teacher are already waiting. The exorbitant school fees parents currently pay should cater to the iPads and free access to the school website that the school will provide.
Who will supervise the children at home, you ask? The parent who now works remotely because their employers have now found that they do not need to come to work every day. It comes with the extra advantage of creating a parent-child bond that has been lost to creche and Montessori schools. This is the new normal. It comes with its own challenges but these are challenges we can tackle once we get into the conversation.
When next we meet, I will tell you what I promised to tell you at the beginning of this article. I want you to make me a promise too—that you will explore how the Information Age can be applied to your specific industry to creating a new normal for you and the people in your space. No matter what you do or wish to do, there are no gate-keepers any longer. With an internet connection and your mobile phone, you too can be whoever you want to be in any field of human endeavour. I’ll show you how.
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