There was a time when to make a phone call, you needed to find your way to a building (home, office etc) to find a telephone to call someone who, to recieve your call, needed to be near a phone in another building. In those days, you arranged to meet at a certain place and generally contented yourself to wait for a period of time if that person got late – you had no way of knowing if they got held up or cancelled.
In those days, there were actual people who you could call on to find you someone’s phone number or even tell you the time. They were called switchboard operators. If you didn’t have coins to insert in the phone booth, you would call them and ask them to arrange a reverse call – connect you with someone, who would be passed the bill for the call.
There was a time when keeping in touch frequently with someone meant writing them a letter (on pen and paper, kids) and recieving a reply from them a few weeks hence. It was common practice for close friends or family to write to their loved ones daily. Because it was a labour of love, penmanship and language usage were important. Many would the crumpled pieces of paper be, to hit a trash can because of too many mis-writes.
It was in this time when photographs, which were taken on film, had to be taken to a studio to be developed (that means printed onto paper). People went to the cinema (that was the only place they could watch movies – except for the few lucky ones that had video tape machines.) The “latest” hollywood movie in england was a few weeks old and in East Africa was a few months old.
Oh, there was a time when people actually bumped into each other on the street, dropped their books and picked them up together, giving rise to whirlwind romance stories in real life. It was a time when technology was used for business only – only the rich may have sent love letters by fax or telex.
If you were a boss in those daysa, you needed a secretary – typically a young lady, who could write in a language called shorthand and type very fast. She would open your mail and wait for you to come to the office, where you would dictate a response to her (which she captured on paper in shorthand). She would then type what you said and give you the paper to sign.
People in my generation, remember nolstalgically, when they would leave school at 3.45pm, walk home a half an hour’s playful walk away and play till they were reluctantly coxed home at 6pm. In this generation, kids played with home made toys – home made dolls, wire frame cars, footballs made of polythene bags and sisal string, marbles and ‘bladder’ (if you don’t know what that is, don’t bother).
Those were the days when in Kenya there was only one TV station and a handful of radio stations (all controlled by the state). TV started at 4pm and programming consisted mainly of infomercials and documentaries. Color TV was a novelty.
Every machine had a knob to be turned, and most needed a specially trained operator.
We live in rather different times, don’t we? As we go through the vast changes, let me go through a number of jobs that are endangered and that I predict will most likely become extinct by 2030.
#1 Postal officials and post offices.
When did you last write a letter and actually post it? What about mail order? Even bank statements and bills are increasingly being accessed via email and text.
#2 Supermarket cashiers
Maybe these will not entirely be extinct but self-service check out will soon become the norm. The few humans left will assist those who can’t physically sort themselves out. It will also not be uncommon to buy everything online (including milk and veggies) and have it delivered. Watch such websites as jumia.co.ke and rupu.co.ke.
#3 Secretaries, receptionists and operators
One is not sure what philandering bosses will do as they answer their own email and answer their own phone. Certainly executives are getting more independent and self-contained, as they manage their own calendars and communications.
#4 Loan Officers
These too, are going to see a sharp decline over the next decade as the credit rating and approval process is automated. In a few short years, we shall apply for loans online and recieve an approval in minutes – and the money will hit the account in a few more minutes.
#5 Travel Agents
Even today, in Kenya (and in many other parts of the world) you dont need a travel agent to travel. It is easy to simply get a quotation from the airlines website, book yourself a ticket and pay, from the comfort of your home. For better deals, websites like booking.com, expedia.com and others are fast becoming the norm.
#6 Librarians & Book shop salespersons
It is now possible to find information on anything in the world – from carpentry and learning a new language, to assembling a nuclear bomb on the internet. Such websites as amazon.com and jumia.co.ke have made it possible for people to buy books online and have them delivered – or read them on their ebook devices like the kindle (which is available on the average android phone).
#7 Journalists & TV Radio Hosts
With the advent of the web, where everyone has the opportunity to set up their own websites, newspapers are fast becoming irrelevant, with sales declining in favour of many blogs and online news sites. News in the future (as in the present) will be broken by citizens with mobile phones and access to youtube and they will be filed on twitter and facebook. The writing is surely on the wall when the tantrums of a certain MP are recorded on mobile phone and then made public by a popular blogger. It isn’t long before we see exposes by prisoners on prison conditions. The fact is anyone with an average phone or a basic camera can now have a successful show – in fact, they already do.
The average Kenyan netizen will tell you that Robert Alai’s kahawatungu.com is as much a media house as the Nation Media Group. There are already lots of interesting shows BellesAfrica (beauty), Winnie Mang’eni (comedy), ThisIsEss, HDMwas (The only guy I found) and so many others (I’m sure).
I guess my point is this: change is inevitable and things will change, regardless of the kind of tantrums we through. A case in point is what is happening with the digital migration in Kenya. Nation Media Group, the Standard Group and Royal Media Services (homes, respectively of, NTV, KTN and Citizen TV) have worked hard to slow down the process of digital migration. They say it for themselves here:
A set top box by these guys is objectionable, to me for several reasons:
- Its anti-competition. Three of Kenya’s largest stations owning a set top box would effectively cause them to behave as cartels do. However, in the same breath, one wonders whether they will be able to agree on ratings, revenue share and such. Worst thing is that they will make it difficult for people to find and view shows that do not meet their terms.
- There is such a thing as over-diversification. Suddenly, these media houses are going into a new business – that of distributing set-top boxes, in addition to developing content. This is just bad business.
Here’s what I am saying: Ukiona wao tell them, the time has come to change or die. Caroline Mutoko says it better on her Youtube channel.