Over the past several decades, South Africa’s role in the world of technological innovation could best be described by the owner of your local Goodwill – “Yeah we’re aware of all the great things in the world, but we’re just waiting until someone, typically with more disposable income, decides to ‘donate their crap’ and move onto the next best thing.” From cell phones and smart-phones, to high-speed internet and even the release of TV-streaming services such as Netflix, South Africa has always been several years behind the curve, eagerly anticipating when Silicon Valley would finally invite them to the party (i.e. more of a metaphorical party, not this type of Silicon Valley party)
Yet, despite being consistently thrown the world’s “IT scraps,” for some apparent reason, South Africa has found itself playing a very unique role – As one of the forefront leaders in the actual adoption of technological innovation. That is to say, it may take a while for them to get it, but once they do, they literally spearhead the market on how it is utilized and applied to our daily lives.
Let me give an example to help back-up this somewhat bold declaration.
Back in 2007, in an age where cell phones were used for the oh-so-peculiar purpose of “speaking” with one another (i.e., voice-to-voice calls), South Africans had all but already abandoned this concept, and had moved almost entirely to the utilization of SMS (i.e. text messages) as their primary form of inter-communication. This newfound method of social interaction was seen as quicker, easier and the perfect solution to avoid speaking to that one person who requires 23 goodbyes before hanging up the actual phone. Fast forward 14 years, and I’d be surprised if 50% of iPhone owners have any awareness that the device they possess was once inspired by an actual telephone, and not by a constipated toilet-seated individual looking for a way to pass the time.
Even Facebook, having been released to South Africans in the late 2000s, was immediately used for more than just posting messages & drunken photos. And instead, was utilized in South Africa as a means to essentially manage social calendars, from event invites & group meetings, to even the occasional non-QAnon-inspired rally. Again, for whatever reason, the citizens of this nation took already-existing technology and seemingly pre-determined its future use in society.
Which brings us to SnapScan - A “mobile payment solution” that relies entirely on a QR code and a smartphone to complete any form of monetary transaction. Similar to what “Google Pay” and “Apply Pay” have attempted to popularize in the States, with the noted exception, SnapScan is insanely popular here in South Africa. As in, it is literally, everywhere. From grocery stores and gas stations to food stall vendors, parking lot attendants, and even your neighborhood dentist (as I recently discovered this week). It’s like pimples on a preteen, or MAGA hats at a Trump rally – You may not have it now, but at some point, you’re just gonna have to get it.
Now, before I go much further, I may have lost a few of those in the “older” generation with terms such as “technology” and “popular,” so let me take a few steps back, and walk through the process of how SnapScan actually works:
No need to carry around cash. No need to carry around credit cards. All you need is a partially charged smartphone, and the world is your oyster (which yes, you are also able to purchase with SnapScan).
Now, on the off-chance that a merchant does NOT accept SnapScan, another “slow-to-be-adopted” technological innovation in the States has already taken South African by storm – Credit card “tapping.” No need to hand anyone your card, or fumble to insert it into a machine that requires a kung-fu-esque grip to hold still. Just tap your card where the tap symbol is, and the purchase is complete. Our deepest condolences, you.
So, there you have it, a brief glimpse into the future of life in America, coming from South Africa. Not what many would expect, but for whatever reason, is what seems to keep happening. Oh yes, and voice notes are going to be a thing too. It’s like a voicemail, but in your text message inbox. It’s as if we have gone full circle… speak to person, don’t want to speak to person, type to person, don’t want to type to person, speak to person… but not really person, just a mailbox of said person. Oh the world in which we live.
Onto the pics:
PRIOR BLOG POSTS:
Year Abroad Intro:
• Welcome to our Newest Blog! Again!
• The Move - Dissected, Probed and Then Probed Some More
• The Voyage (Part 1) - If At First You Don't Succeed, Trying Again Won't Work Either
• The Voyage (Part 2) - The Layover to Rule All Other Layovers
• A Personal Life Update - Establishing Our Shallow Roots
A Guide to South Africa:
• How to be an Expat When You Aren't Technically an Expat
(Part 1 - Bank Accounts)
• How to be an Expat, When You Aren't Technically an Expat (Part 2 - Health Insurance)
• Load Shedding - Keeping the Lights Off in South Africa Since 2007
• 195 Ways to Fight a Pandemic - The South Africa Edition
• Halloween in South Africa - Playing Catch-Up Since 2016
• SnapScan - South Africa's Glimpse into America's Future
• Thanksgiving in South Africa - Where My Turkeys Be At?
• Life at the Epicenter of Omicron - A Different Type of Cancel Culture
• Playgrounds - The Starbucks of South Africa
• Cost of Living in South Africa - An Exploratory Journey of Everyday Expenses
• Namibia Roadtrip (1 of 3) - Driving a Shake Weight to Sossusvlei
• Namibia Roadtrip (2 of 3) - Searching for Souls in Swakopmund
• Namibia Roadtrip (3 of 3) - Getting our Safari on at Etosha National Park
• Weekend Getaway in Robertson - A Trip Down Pleasantville Lane
• Summer Holiday Trip (1 of 3) - Glamping Without the Glam in the Drakensberg Mountains
• Summer Holiday Trip (2 of 3) - The Historical Chronicles of Kruger National Park
• Summer Holiday Trip (3 of 3) - Searching for Whales and Spare Tires in the Overberg
• Visitors Round 1 - The Woodmans - An Expedited Exploration of Everything
• The Great Wildebeest Migration - 15 Years of Waiting Decided in 15 Minutes
• Ngorongoro Crater - A Pre-Migration Layover Inside an Inverted Volcano
• Ndutu - The Safari to Rule All Other Safaris
• Serengeti National Park - Seeking Out Simba at an Abandoned Pride Rock
• Zanzibar - The Island of Sugar, Spice and Most Things Nice
• Visitors Round 2 - Let's Ignore Our Sanity & Do All The Things
• Wild Coast - A Little Tatse of the O.G. South Africa
• Spring Break in September - Just as Strange as it Sounds
• A Day in the Life of a South African Expat - The Visual Edition
• A Wrinkle in Our Spare Time
• Our Final Week in South Africa - A Bittersweet Symphony of Bucket Lists
The Other Stuff:
• This is 40: The South Africa Version