One moment in time


The melodic tune of Whitney Houston’s song ‘One moment in time’ had me humming as I read Steven Little’s book “The Milkshake Moment: Overcoming Stupid Systems, Pointless Policies and Muddled Management to Realize Real Growth.” It reminded me of the expression ‘lightbulb moment.’ This is a moment when you suddenly realize something or have a good idea. The epiphany. Being digital I automatically considered the moments which define ICT during its recent history. It turns out there are many: Netscape moment. Mobile moment. Uber moment. Kodak moment. Milkshake Moment. Let’s examine each of these.

The Netscape Moment

Netscape Navigator code named Mozilla was one of the first successful browsers. This browser, seamlessly connected the web to the network allowing a user to surf without requiring programming skills. Firefox is the current browser version from Netscape. The company was started by Jim Clark who headhunted a $7 an-hour programmer, Marc Andreesen. When they sold Netscape a few years later in 1995 Clark made massive $633 million while the hourly-paid Marc received a happy $63million. This was known as the Netscape moment and signalled the birth of Internet millionaires. To celebrate Clark outrageously used 633MN as the calling sign for his private jet. Now this should have been a Kodak moment. Marc is now a venture capitalist who is vociferously supporting Bitcoin. Be like Marc.

The Kodak Moment

Kodak moment is a phrase frequently used by the digital settlers (old people) when taking a picture of someone at a particular moment that should never be forgotten. Kodak cameras used this term as part of their successful advertising for many years. Kodak employed 120 000 people at one point. Kodak invented and prototyped the first digital camera. Cruelly, it did not recognise that its own invention will be the killer blow that will not only disrupt photography but ultimately destroy itself. Kodak innovated but it did not adapt. Kodak sadly had what we now term an ‘Uber moment’.

Kevin Systrom the inventor of Instagram appropriated the term ‘Kodak moment’ and shamelessly changed it to ‘Instagram moment’. He did however consider himself a serial failure because he turned down an opportunity to develop a photo sharing service for a start-up called The Facebook owned by a bloke called Mark Zuckerberg. Failure? Absolutely! The serial bit was added when he turned down another opportunity to work with one Jack Dorsey on what became Twitter. I would have called this a Suicidal Moment. Luckily for Systrom, at least he still had lightbulb moment in creating Instagram which netted him $500million personally when it was sold. We cannot say the same for the 120K people who lost their jobs at Kodak though. The Instagram moment contributed to the negative Uber moment that Kodak experienced.

The Mobile Moment

The world has surpassed the mobile moment, when the number of mobile devices equals and even exceeds the number of people although it is not reached the one-device one-person nirvana. This mobile moment provides opportunity to reimagine, redesign and reengineer the way we live. This connectivity has flattened the world and provided Internet to many folk who have never used any other computational device such as a laptop or computer.

The Uber Moment

Uber moment refers to where technology disrupts and even usurps incumbents across the value chain. It changes the mode of engagement – it has no view on good or bad and regrettably it seems to have a few fabulous beneficiaries and sadly many casualties. The Uber taxi service like the Airbnb room rental service provides an enticing service yet it has consequence on taxi operators.

The First Industrial revolution was premised on the discovery of steam power. The second industrial revolution was propelled by electric power. The third digital revolution was posited on the digital and computer capabilities. These three revolutions were largely empowering, arguably inclusive and mostly incremental. The 4th industrial revolution (4IR) is being driven by the notion of the Internet of Things (IoT). This will be even more disruptive. Think (and Google) Great depression. Consider driverless cars, non-unionised robotic workforce. 4IR operates on a multidisciplinary system comprising big data, robotics, artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, quantum computing, biotechnology, 3D printing, autonomous vehicles and billions of connected devices that can talk to and listen to each other using radio and other communicating technologies. We already have automatic piloting system, and collision avoidance systems for aircraft. We call this the internet of everything. This, on the surface, is seductive and alluring although it has huge consequences on the labour market. The call-centre agent will be replaced by a chatbots, the logistics driver by a driverless vehicle.

The Milkshake Moment

The Milkshake moment? Growth is the central focus of every business, yet businesses practices in the name of uniformity stifle individuality. In Milkshake Moment, Steven Little demonstrates through examples how to identify and overcome stifling behaviours in your organization to makes changes and achieve growth. We, at DUT, along with our partner NEMISA will be workshopping this great concept, as part of our contribution to the South African economy.

The song is ending and we arrive at my awkward moment. “Colin, you may have noticed the light is off. Hopefully that lightbulb within you is now off as well. Now come to bed” orders the wife. Good Night.

Dr Colin Thakur is a digital activist who is committed to the dream of “one person, one connected device.” He is the KZN e-Skills CoLab Director, located at the Durban University of Technology. His areas of research include e-democracy, Social media, and unstructured big data.