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Friday, 7 October 2011

Steve Jobs' Legacy To Democracy

Steve Jobs' Legacy To Democracy


With Steve Jobs’ passing after a long battle with cancer, tributes have poured from across the globe, and countless viewpoints have been offered on what his legacy shall be.
A visionary. A designer. A perfectionist. An exacting CEO. An entrepreneur. The man who redefined the Digital Age. The man who understood what politicians didn’t.”
Even before the iPhone and the iPad, Jobs freed up graphic designers, editors, film-makers from the shackles of pre- and post-production, by adding new tools to their trade. Jobs leveled the playing field in the media industry. With the iTunes, he revolutionized multi-media, music and content-sharing. He was the drive behind many start-ups, including his own. He pushed the envelope of Internet communication, social media and networking, as no one had ever done before him.

Steve Jobs while introducing the iPad in San F...
Image via Wikipedia
 Jobs was that, and more. As President Barack Obama and Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev said, Jobs has “changed the world.”

Apple Inc. under Jobs’ leadership had another profound legacy. Its commitment to diversity. It was plain obvious when you walked into any Apple store. Diversity of gender, of race, of sexual orientation, of disability.

At Apple stores in New York and Washington, I have been helped by legally-blind Apple staff, through every step of a purchase, from selecting the product I was interested in to scanning the bar code and forwarding the invoice to my mail inbox. Once I pressed a young woman, who must have been legally-blind and was assisted by her dog, on what technology made it possible for her to perform so effectively. She answered that Apple, as a company, had always lived up to its commitment to disabled people. Whatever the technology, voice-recognition, screen-touch, disabled people were counted in at Apple, trained and assisted, to perform.

We take it for granted and, yet, I have not yet seen staff  with disability, at a sports shoe store or at an eye glasses store. It is always a thrill to walk into an Apple store, and get to talk with the “Apple geniuses.”

There is one thing, though, that Steve Jobs did not have a chance to do: to oversee the opening of an Apple Store in Africa––at least, based on Apple’s own list of its stores worldwide.

There are no Apple stores in Cairo, in Kenya or in Johannesburg. Just to be clear. That does not mean that there are no Apple products in Africa. Any visitor to any city in Africa would have had a chance to see a range of Apple devices, from iPods to iPhones to iPads and Macs, all purchased in London, New York or Dubai. The rapidly emerging consumer class in Africa, who can afford Apple products, do so with the same hype, enthusiasm and love, as any consumer in New York, Tokyo or Beijing.

In an interview on Public Radio The World, Harvard Professor Calestous Juma recounts his first encounter with an Apple computer in the mid-1980s, and how he put it to use to “set up a desktop publishing house for $5,000, down from the normal cost of $50, 000.”
Steve Jobs, Juma says, revolutionized publishing houses in Africa.”
I have often thought of how fantastic it would be to walk into an Apple store in Cairo, Cape Town, Jo’Burg or Nairobi and to get helped by an “Apple genius” from Kibera or Soweto. Think of it. How revolutionary. How democratic.

For that dream, and for all that he has, indeed, given Apple’s fans, Steve Jobs will be greatly missed.

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