"Never settle for less than your dreams.
Somewhere, sometime, someday, somehow, you'll find them

- Danielle Steel, Bittersweet.

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Friday, July 31, 2015

Policy and Ideas: Access Trumps Ownership

Today, we are very excited to introduce our new weekly Friday feature, aptly titled Policy and Ideas.
The first instalment  is titled 'Access Trumps Ownership'.

In Policy and Ideas, we highlight systems that are in place to guide our decisions and explore ideas that can lead to rational outcomes, as we help you connect with what matters to you.

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I last bought a newspaper in 2005. And no, Facebook and Twitter are not to blame. But nationaudio.com and eastandard.net are. I haven't watched television nor had a TV in my house for almost 5 years now, thanks to YouTube. As for radio, I now spend more time listening to podcasts than live broadcasts.

Don't be fooled into thinking I am talking about the Internet. I stopped buying newspapers because I was forced to buy an entire package of outdated news, press releases from PR companies, advertorials, acres of advertisements and propaganda, when all I want is select pullouts and opinion pieces from my favorite columnists.

The same goes for television. I am not patient enough to endure an entire hour of news inundated with commercials, only to have my favorite segment, the business segment relegated to a 5-minute interlude just before Sports News.

You can now see why my media consumption changed.
I want news delivered as it happens. I also get to decide when to read, listen and watch whatever I want.

In the Horror movie Saw III, Jigsaw tells Troy that despite having all the advantages, Troy has opted not to progress.

That is the exact sad situation that many of us have wilfully walked into, and even worse, opted to stay in.
I come from a Kenyan community that values land above all else. Not using or making the most of land, but simply owning land. Many have lost life and limb in a quest to acquire as much land as possible, only to leave it to offspring who will most probably sell it and squander the money, or spend endless hours in court since they cannot agree on who will inherit what.

By contrast, another Kenyan community of Asian extraction is famous for being entrepreneurial. They seldom own large tracts of land, and when they do, it is because an economic activity is being carried out that demands many acres of land.

It is this same thinking that informs this community's preference to lease both residential and commercial property, instead of acquiring it. The cost of acquiring land is in most cases prohibitive. All you need is a place to live or work. You really don't have to own the space. Access to it is all that matters.
So, why buy when you can rent?

Whenever I think about our obsession with owning stuff, I cannot help but recall Heavy D and The Boyz asking: "Now that we found love, what are we gonna do with it?"

Having is one thing. It is what you do with it that makes a difference.

Today is Friday. Traffic jams will mark the end of this day. Many o us will complain on social networks. But few will pause to [1] wonder why this is, and [2] seek a solution.

In recent years, the Ministry of Transport has made various attempts at easing congestion in Nairobi. One proposal was to limit the number of personal vehicles that get into the city centre. Another was to do away with low capacity public service vehicles.

Guess what happened...
The public objected.

Owning a car is a status symbol in Kenya. Many a young professional wants to drive to work every morning, and back home in the evening. Public means will do the exact same thing, and more affordably.
Thankfully, some people are once again using public transport more often, and in so doing, reducing the number of cars on the road during rush hour, ferrying just one person.

And I could go on and on...

It does feel good to own things. We live in a world that judges us on the basis of how much money, land and property we own. But true to Bob Dylan's famous lines in the 60s, "The times, they are a-changin'"

Access is now becoming more important that ownership. Media on demand is increasingly becoming popular. Scarcity of space and facilities are making leasing a more viable alternative.

This presents a challenge to those who own things, such as landowners. What are you doing with whatever amount of land you already own? To those in the information age, are you making it more accessible, or still cling to bygone days when you had the power to decide when listeners must tune in to enjoy a show on radio or TV? Are you still delivering stale news which loses currency and importance after others avail and analyze it to the audience while you're still warming up the press or setting up the autocue?

Access trumps ownership.
You don't have to own the land on which you can do very rewarding agribusiness. You don't have to own the car that takes you to and from work. With Internet access, you can listen to timeless audio and watch videos from content producers who understand the true value in availing information in the digital age.

Despite having all the advantages, are you still choosing not to progress?

Let's connect again next week.

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