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Mobile Technology and Africa

BBC – How technology democratised development

In How technology democratised development, Ken Banks discusses how mobile networking has become a vital tool to combat some of Africa’s problems. Through mobile networking, Africans are able to work more efficiently by constantly communicating through calls and messages, coordinating meetings and such with much ease. They are able to save time by staying in to do mundane tasks such as paying bills and sending money. Mobile networking also promotes healthier lives through constant communication between community healthcare workers who work in small villages and city hospitals. It also promotes democracy by fostering political debates and reporting corruption. Moreover, mobile technology has given the Africans an inexpensive and a workable tool that many people can use to innovate. Through these changes, Africa is developing, venturing new and novel ways to tackle their own problems.

What mobile technology has brought to the Africans is a method for networking. In the developed world, people have connections throughout the continent and often far beyond the oceans. This is possible through a tool that we tend to take for granted: the internet. The internet allows for global networking, through emails, instant messaging, Twitter, Facebook, and many other methods. This tool was what the Africans needed. Without phones and internet, networks is limited to within a small body of people who live close to each other. Of course, by using paper or word-of-mouth a long distance network can be maintained, but that edge between the far-separated nodes is very likely to be a weak one simply due to the difficulty communicating. Paper communication is expensive and word-of-mouth is subjective to the carrier.

Because many people were isolated to their own groups, they may have had limited knowledge of others around them, let alone the billions of people across the globe. Likewise, the people in the world would be just as ignorant of them as well because of the lack of a strong link (or any link, really). With previous work in aiding Africa, the select few (organizations such as World Vision, Compassion, etc.) report to the people in developed countries who pay for food and clothing that World Vision then sends to the Africans. This type of network could be seen as one large component (sponsors of aid organizations) being connected to one node (for example, World Vision) which is connected to many different small components. But with mobile technology in their hands, Africans, alongside creating a more effective workplace, are able to create links to the developed world. This changes everything. They can grab all the knowledge on the internet to solve many problems that were not possible before. They have access to the living standards of other places and are encouraged to work towards development of the continent as a whole. They can directly communicate to others across the globe through forums, blogs, and social networking websites. With mobile technology, the network plot would look like the following: two large components that were connected through several nodes that connected the components together change into the two large components developing links between each other without having to go across the connecting nodes. Eventually, there would be just one, unified global network component, further  evening out the development level across the globe.

– Hermes

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