Saturday, November 3, 2007

Liberation Technology

In some of the poorest nations of Africa, cell phone subscriptions are growing at a rate of 100% per year. This makes large parts of Africa a study in dramatically contrasting details, cell phone societies without running water.

As any successful innovation must, the mobile phone is transforming African society. In Kenya, a person living on $1 a day can buy an old cell phone for $10 in Cell Phone Alley, and instantly join a communication network that leaps from village to village. Before, news traveled at a walk or a run. Now, news about weather, crops, cattle, what people are buying and what they are not, travels around the country almost instantly.

The social transformation extends well beyond more speed and profits. Cheap phone calls and flash messaging make it nearly impossible for the governments in these nations to control opinions and information the way they used to. More than just a convenience, mobile telecommunication is a liberation technology.

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