Tokyo - I'd always imagined that South Africa was fairly close to international trends - at most by 18 months to three years, and the adoption of mobile 3G networks and the push toward LTE convinced me that this was the case.
But I was wrong - by some distance.
At the risk of being labelled an Afro-pessimist, one has to concede that Japan technology and society are leagues ahead of us here in sunny SA.
Sure we have 3G and apps, so one could rush the conclusion that developing markets will, as the experts say, "jump" technologies to catch up with the cutting edge first world information revolution.
But not only is that assumption false; it is deeply flawed one you compare it to what's already available in Japan.
Third generation mobile networks are virtually standard in the country, with the rollout of LTE moving ahead swiftly. Unlike SA, the rollout of high speed data networks is unencumbered by political impotence and infighting.
Part of the reason has been consumer demand: Japan leads the region with 76% smartphone penetration, though South Korea leads in terms of LTE rollout at 51%.
Japan eliminated 2G completely by 2011 and LTE is making progress to take over from 3G. Mobile operator NTT Docomo is not just looking at LTE as a data network as in other countries.
The company has partnered with its network provider Ericsson to offer VOLTE (Voice Over LTE), making LTE effectively independent of 3G.
But the progress didn't happen by accident. The Japanese government in 2001 adopted its e-Japan strategy which resulted in the country leap-frogging its neighbours in terms of ICT policies.
To be fair, SA has laudable, even progressive policies that are the envy of some countries even in developed markets. The key though, is active implementation and access that leaves our policies little more than nice-sounding words on expensive paper.
The Japanese mobile technology revolution has led to real-world results that make a difference to the lives of ordinary people.
As the population becomes older, health care has emerged as a key challenge and mobile applications has been written to provide assistance to the elderly in terms of providing free access to health professionals.
There are also proposals to create community housing projects that will house up to 500 people, but also site education, health and social services at the same venue so that people can access care automatically via mobile devices.
Honda demonstrated the company's future vision of a robot stool (okay, think sitting Segway) that will provide localised transportation and in the future, connect to location-based software to ensure that, for instance, an old person with dementia doesn't wander away into a risky environment.
The Fukushima disaster has accelerated the move toward smart cities in Japan and the country has begun the process of investigating a network of smart sensors that will exploit location-based data to compile a real-time map of the country that could give early warning of crisis hotspots.
Even proponents of this technology, though, are already thinking about how high-speed data networks and smart devices should be managed to ensure that the system remains secure from hack attacks.
Ultimately the purpose of all the technology is to ensure that the country efficiently responds to the needs of its citizens, and as the population has access to robust information networks, a measurable benefit accrues to the economy.
In SA, we can only dream.
- Follow Duncan on Twitter
Disclaimer: All articles and letters published on MyNews24 have been independently written by members of News24's community. The views of users published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24. News24 editors also reserve the right to edit or delete any and all comments received.