Tuesday, January 10, 2012

How does technological development alter a nation?


I was thinking today about a trip I took to Tanzania in 2006 -- I spent a month volunteering at a women's craft collective (and maybe someday I will go into all the reasons why it was awkward to have white college kids trying to tell local adults how to run their businesses...), and got the opportunity to hike Kilimanjaro.  For all the amazing memories of that trip, however, one really sticks with me -- the prevalence of Vodafone.

Along with Coca-Cola, Vodafone appeared to sponsor every shop's sign, and their influence was impossible to ignore.  I learned that it actually made a good amount of sense, because in large, less populated countries developing in the twenty-first century, erecting miles and miles of phone line makes no sense.  "Aha!" went my brain (I was at the time studying international development economics) "That is so logical."

Since then, I've seen many more examples of technology's impact on nations, developing and otherwise.  Since technology facilitates interpersonal connection (usually), it has wide-reaching implications for how groups of people, and nations, define social interactions and business.  Here are a couple of links I found today that address the role of technology in different countries -- what do you think?  Do any of these stories ring as positive change?  Or does the globalized, connected nature of technology necessarily erode individual traditions and identities?   I'd love to hear your thoughts -- comments are always welcome, or you can tweet me at EpicAdventurer_!

-E-waste and its impact in Africa.  This made me think of all the people I would see wearing totally incongruous outfits (say, a 50 Cent t-shirt and car tire sandals) -- how many Western "donations" are actually our trash, offloaded to less powerful countries?

-How the uneven spread of technology around the world causes a divide.  I wonder, though, why the existence of a divide necessarily means other countries should develop more -- when we would never consider developing less.  And as we discuss "developing" other countries with technological gains, we had better be willing to part with some intellectual property -- if people can't fix and maintain their new tools, they are only superficially participating in any global conversation -- because there is still going to be a reliance on foreign technical education.

-How TV has finally spread to Bhutan.  (Bhutan is definitely on my scheme list.  Need to get me one of those $200-a-day visas...)

-There has been a lot of discussion about the role of social media in the political uprisings in the middle east this year -- what about the effects on journalism in South Korea?

An interesting article -- includes why introducing genetically modified (GM) crops to developing countries' agriculture might be a bad idea.

Reactions?  I want to hear 'em!

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