Monday, November 26, 2007


Each and every country has something special about it. I've travelled a lot and can tell you that this is very true. As a tourist it can be difficult to judge, but when you move in you notice the differences. This post is about haste in two different regards, something we are lacking in South Africa.

I still remember when our McDonald's opened up in Tygervalley about 12 or so years ago. Since then a number of them have opened up and you can't get away from that honking yellow M. The problem we have though is that our fast food stores are, well, not fast! We took the concept from America and completely screwed it up. What it is that caused this I have no idea, but we just cannot seem to get it right. Even when the place is empty, they take their time. When it's busy you can easily wait 30 minutes or more.

Here in the US, however, they stick to the phrase! As much as I have come to hate McDonald's, I convinced myself to give them a try here. First of all let me say their food is just as plasticy here as they are back home. However, they are fast! In SA the cashier takes your order, you pay her and she gets your meal. Here, they have a separate person fetching the meal. This way people can order much, much faster. Some places even have a separate "queue" to pick up your meal. I put it in quotes cause it's so short it's not really a queue. I haven't timed it, but it seems like you're out of there in under three minutes. As I said earlier, McDonald's here is terrible, but Burger King for a little more serve much better burgers -- it actually tastes close to real meat.

The second thing I'd like to touch on is high-speed Internet. I've already made some people want to kill me each time I mention it, but I thought I'd mention it again. For those readers outside of South Africa, we are one one of the worst countries as Internet connectivity goes.

We're far away from America, Europe and Asia -- all the major hubs. So immediately we get crappy latencies and there's little that can be done to rectify that. By crappy I mean easily 500+ ms latencies to Europe. But it gets worse. Our telecommunications sector is a monopoly -- a single company that calls itself Telkom that is hated by 99% of the people I know that have used their "services". Just have a look here to see how bad the situation is -- in summary, about $100 for 2GB a month at 384kbps.

So you can imagine how wonderful it is for me to come over here in the US and make use of their first world services. At NVIDIA they have a 10gbps line. Compare that to our 19mbps line at UCT for five times as many people. I also got cable from Comcast at my apartment on Friday morning. Advertised at 6mbps, but I tell you that is just the guaranteed minimum as I get about 20-25 on a speed test. Compare that to SA where the advertised speed is a theoretical maximum. Also, the service is excellent. I ordered on Wednesday, Thursday was a holiday and they came on Friday morning. Compare that to SA where it can take a month for them to install it.

These are just two signs of haste in this country. There are many more I've noticed and I'm sure many others will pop up. Some of this has been brought on by the age of the Internet as a lot of what used to be done on paper is now done online.


  1. "a single company that calls itself Telkom that is hated by 99% of the people I know that have used their "services"."

    The same in Indonesia. Even the name is exactly the same. The price is slightly lower though these days, since they now have some real competitors for the broadband market (although it's still only in the big cities).

  2. Hmm, I guess you're not implying that haste is necessarily always a good thing. It's ironic how fast everything goes in the US when you compare that to statistics and tendencies that illustrate how lazy most americans are, such as how many hours of TV they watch per day, on average, etc.

  3. I guess what I'm trying to say is that a culture of instant gratification coupled with general perceived laziness is not a good thing. That being said, the world *is* moving more and more towards instant gratification - and that's inevitable

  4. @ilham We have a second network operator (Neotel that started doing business over a year ago, but they have yet to offer services to individuals. Currently it is illegal for anyone except for Telkom and Neotel to lay a line across our roads, any road.

    @anon It's an interesting point you make and I must say I thought about that when I was working in Zurich where everything really does run like clockwork. Except that over there they most certainly are not lazy, but instead the perfectness there in some ways makes life less enjoyable. They take things a little too seriously. Over here in the US, well it's difficult to say. Yes, Americans are considered to be lazy, but is that due to the fast service? What is obviously bad is that the fast foods are so unhealthy and the combination of fast and cheap makes them an easy choice. The thing is the people I work with aren't American, so it's difficult to judge this early on. I'll get back to this topic once I've been here a little longer.

  5. Yes yes, brag about your super-fast internet. We'll be waiting for you with baseball bats with inconspicious brown stains on them when you get back...

  6. Look who's complaining. Were you not with me in Croatia where we had gbit lines? Granted, that was only for 10 days. I get this for three months. :-D