Clem Sunter

iWish

2011-10-07 15:30

The death of Steve Jobs leaves a big hole in the world. He was the ultimate entrepreneur whose creativity and passion for continuous innovation produced an array of products which have changed a billion lives. No politician, no movie star, no sports hero of our generation has had such influence. He transcended national boundaries, national cultures, different languages with his passion for the next big thing.

Even when stricken by a fatal condition, he was Mr Cool as he strode across the stage with the launch of the latest bit of Apple magic. He was mesmerising because he lived for the expansion of the technological universe. Anywhere you go - in offices, shops, restaurants, on the pavements, in taxis and at airports - you will see people staring at the screens he created, manipulating the pictures, chatting in an animated way to some distant friend or reading some text.

Americans worship the likes of Steve Jobs because he represents everything they aspire to be themselves. He is the type of person who ensures that America stays at the forefront of the global economy. He was not produced by some great national plan setting new priorities for economic growth. He came from nowhere like the other IT icons, met like-minded people with similar ambitions and started from scratch.

The only thing America did for him was provide a supportive environment where he could act as a free spirit, where he could take risks, where he could learn from failure and try again.

South Africa has had its share of entrepreneurs who may not have achieved the same level of success that Steve did, but nevertheless have influenced the lives of many for the better. How do we go about honouring them and challenging others to take the plunge? How do we change the mindset in this country where it is a cause for celebration if an innovation starts as a local breakthrough and then takes off around the world?

Before anybody says we cannot possibly emulate America, I would state categorically that we have enough academies of excellence to have a good chance of producing the next Steve Jobs. But he or she must have a following wind and be given a similar level of adulation as is now surfacing for one of the greatest players of all time on the IT stage.

God bless you, Steve. May you continue to introduce new products to connect all the angels and archangels in the heavenly web. iThank you for your life on earth.

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