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06 September 2010

The Big Bang Theory

The Big Bang Theory states that the universe started off with one huge explosion from an infinitesimally small point called a singularity. Right now, it is rapidly expanding in all directions as evidenced by galaxies all around spinning away from each other. Sounds fun, but the theory also goes on to say that if this expansion doesn’t slow down soon, the whole universe is going to end up all cold and dark, all the energy having been spent in expansion.

This interesting piece on astronomy came to mind when I spent nearly a week unable to make any calls, txt, or even sent a Call Me Back using my Econet line. It seems as if the network became congested with calls just after they introduced per second billing. Per second billing is still a cool new feature in Zimbabwe and it seems everybody’s keen on finding out how it works, and whether it would really save them a couple of cents…hence the network overload.

Econet is by far the country’s largest network. It started in 1999 and now possesses over 75% of the market share…a large and undoubtedly unfair chunk of the pie if you ask me. Think four million Zimbabweans all experimenting with making multiple calls in an effort to stretch the humble dollar. Not good.

My possibly alarmist question is: did this company bite off more than it can chew? I have absolutely nothing wrong with a company expanding, but shouldn’t this expansion be supported by infrastructure on the ground? Doing it any other way can only lead to gross inefficiencies. Try calling the Econet helpline, for instance, and you will reach the inevitable conclusion that they are the ones who need a lot of help in customer service provision.

I can’t help thinking about Microsoft at this juncture. Everyone knows that these guys own the PC operating system world (For all we know this side of the equator, Mac OS and Linux could be the latest hybrid offerings from Toyota). However, everybody also knows that it is most unwise to be the first to get the latest operating system package from them. A gross period should be allowed: a period characterized by bug fixes and the release of ‘improved’ versions of the same product.

Now I am scared of and for companies that are big but haven’t done much wrong yet. Think Facebook with its recently reached membership of 500 million people. It makes me more than a bit uneasy that Wikipedia has separate page dedicated to Facebook criticisms. Some of the privacy issues in this article could make you squirm.

While ‘Facebook owns social networking, Google owns everything else’…that’s according to a Cnet article I recently came across. I cant argue with that, seeing  Google now seems to rule the internet. Picture this: if you spent your day on the internet, you might start your day by launching the Google Chrome browser, then search on Google to access your Gmail, blog with Blogger, network with Buzz, watch videos on YouTube, manage digital photos on Picasa, find places with Earth…need I go on? And the company is only 13 years old.
Little wonder, in 2006, the word ‘google’ was added as a verb in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary and the Oxford English Dictionary. But what if Google gets so big that it becomes blatantly inefficient? Or (should I say it?) what if this giant actually collapses? I am sure such an event would immediately kick start the long aforetold biblical great tribulation.

 Becoming big, no doubt, is nice. A recent IPC Consultancy survey rates Econet Wireless as the most admired employer in Zimbabwe; Google, according to a Universum survey, has gained the best employer status globally (closely followed by Microsoft). Everybody’s falling over each other to work for them big companies.

 But being big should be managed. Expansion without proper management can only lead to gross disappointments. It would be like following the bad footsteps that, according to astronomers, the universe has laid out from the very beginning. Tragically, a couple of billion years from now we are all going to be sitting in the dark, all cold and gloomy,  wondering why the universe couldn’t just slow down when it was growing up.

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