We have just had the office copier repaired. It needed a new PCU. The original PCU has lasted for eight years and printed 400,000 copies, so this replacement will probably outlive the rest of the machine! Photocopier repair man Paul was telling me that new copiers used to come onto the market every 5 – 8 years. In between there were upgrades but not new models. Today, apparently, a manufacturer will market a new model every 12 – 15 months!
Paul was explaining that it was the speed of technological enhancement that was responsible. Technological enhancement coupled with consumer demand. Consumers want faster and faster machines with clearer and clearer images. Jobs that used to be the specialist domain of the local print shop can now be done in your own office.
All this got me thinking. How fair is it that we are obsessed with getting better and better bits of kit for our offices but don’t worry about people dying in far off parts of the world. How concerned is your average office worker in Europe or USA with the fact that a child dies every 4 minutes from water-borne disease; or that women around the world spend 200 million hours every day walking to fetch water? Perhaps if there was some way to link our work to child deaths or water harvesting, we might take more of an interest. Perhaps if we all had to stop work every 4 minutes to mourn for a child, we’d all become so fed up with our lack of productivity that we’d demand that something was done. That would be consumer demand in action.
But that is also a dream. In the meantime, those of us who care have to keep shouting about it. Those of us who care have to keep raising awareness and raising money; and one day, just maybe, the rest of the world will sit up and look beyond their insulated bubble and take notice. Then you might see consumer demand make a real difference.