As I sat there scratching my head, for how can you be alive and not be found on, I realised that a new criteria for existence has been born, and I had just tripped over it. A credit history is still mighty important but if you have no web history can you really exist?I was 23 years old, had just begun my first real job, and was on my way to sign up for my first mobile phone contract. This was back in 1993, mobile phones were just being born in South Africa, and if you can remember back then you’ll appreciate my excitement at having just been given a Hagenuk (aka, the original brick).I proudly strolled up to the person in the mobile phone shop, with ID documents, proof of salary, proof of residence, copy of bank statement, everything but a blood sample, ready to sign up. When I was asked if I had any accounts or credit with any other companies or stores, I confidently answered in the negative. This had been something I was very proud of at the age of 23 – I’d never had to borrow money. Or should I say, I’d never purchased anything I couldn’t pay for with cash.
You can imagine my shock and horror when I was told that without a credit history (rating), I couldn’t be approved and hence given a mobile phone contract. This was a new lesson for me. So out I went and opened 5 or 6 accounts at different stores, most of which I had never, and would probably never purchase anything from.
This is a lesson we all know, or as in my case learn very quickly in your late teens and early twenties; you gotta have credit to get credit. While there are a truck load of cynical views and conspiracy theories (some of which I agree with), regarding the pressure to have a credit history, I’m not going to use this space to discuss them. Rather, I’d like to suggest a new ‘credit rating’ for the information age. It shares some of the features of the old system, but has the same consequence… ‘if you’re not on the list, you can’t go to the party!’
If I may, I’d like to introduce it by way of a true story (or as close to the truth as I can get without endangering your and my life)…
Last week I was approached by someone to get involved in a joint venture. There was almost no risk to me other than time, and the upside if it came off seemed fairly attractive. The only problem was that I didn’t know the person very well, and most of our correspondence had been via e-mail, an accepted standard in today’s business world.
As I sat one afternoon, thinking through this venture I noticed that this potential new partner was using a ‘free’ e-mail address. One of the many available on the internet, most often used by students, travellers and people wanting to keep their details unknown and anonymous.
“Aha�, I thought to myself, as I fired up my frustratingly slow internet connection and browsed on over to (For those of you not completely familiar with, it is one of cyberspace’s biggest search engines, found at I crisply punched in my partner-to-be’s name, and found nothing. I tried their company name, still nothing. I even tried their e-mail address, still nothing.
As I sat their scratching my head, for how can you be alive and not be found on, I realised that a new criteria for existence has been born, and I had just tripped over it. A credit history is still mighty important but if you have no web history can you really exist?
Based on this new criteria I know I’m alive because when I go to and type in my name “Barrie Bramley� (the inverted commas are important), there are 84 matches, at last count, and they all have something to do with me. You can track my progress from around 1993 (the same year I got a mobile phone – mmhhh?) You can track my work history, my family history, and know that I have a life.
I’m not suggesting that we throw all previous methods and measures out and replace them with the test. However, I would like to suggest that as ‘on the edge’ as my point may sound, it is conceivable that companies and people, in the near future, will begin to make use of the Internet as a reference tool more and more.
Your existence will be confirmed by your presence on the great search engines of Cyber Space. It’s both a chilling and comforting idea. On the one hand all sorts of people, some of whom I will not know, will be able to ‘look me up’. They’ll have access to all kinds of information about me that I don’t necessarily want them to know. On the other hand I will have the ability to ‘look them up’ as well. The internet offers me, Joe public, access to a giant database from which I can make informed decisions about people’s existence based on their history recorded in Cyber Space. That’s real history by the way, not the virtual stuff we’ve become accustomed to talking about when we refer to the Internet.
Sure there are all kinds of flaws and loopholes that can be abused and misused. There’s nothing new about that. Things are changing, and my choices are to either embrace the new opportunities afforded by the change or, run and hide. I was never much of a runner.
Oh and just before you switch off and go home tonight, send me your name. I might just find some time to see if you’re alive.
TomorrowToday Global