Arts and Letters Daily, a blog of The Chronicle of Higher Education, singled out a World Ark feature as its “Article of Note” for November 8. “Can You Hear Us Now?“, by travel writer Frank Bures, takes a first-person look at technology as way to combat poverty in Africa.
I’ll let Mark Graham
(links to Graham’s blog), a research fellow at the Oxford Internet Institute, do the talking. From his blog post
earlier today on The Guardian
’s Poverty Matters blog:
“East Africa is in the process of reinventing itself. The government of Rwanda has invested heavily in IT infrastructure to bring high speed internet connections to even the most remote parts of this small, resource-poor country. Kenya, similarly, has ambitious plans to become a highly wired nation and attract a share of the growing market in international business outsourcing.”
But Graham doesn’t stop there. He goes on to pose the difficult and important questions about technology and developing countries:
“Will altered connectivity really allow firms in east Africa to become hubs in the global economy? Or will improved connections simply allow foreign firms to better exploit the demand in east Africa for IT services? Perhaps most importantly, who stands to benefit? And who will be left out of these transformations?”
Thoughts or insights?
Read about Heifer International’s successes in Rwanda
Photo by Pieter Hugo, for The New York Times
What happens to your old computer when you dump it after two years to get the latest model? It probably gets shipped overseas to a developing country, where it is stripped for metals like copper, brass and aluminum.
The dumping grounds for old computers are hellish scenes of smoke and fire, smoldering keyboards, broken glass–detritus of the technology age. And it’s not just unsightly; it’s also a threat to the environment and health. The air is heavy with the stench of burning plastic, and the soil has high levels of heavy metals and other toxins, like PCBs and dioxins.
Yet, with all of these risks, dumping grounds have their inhabitants. The New York Times Magazine
published a special photo feature
on one such dump in West Africa: “In Agbogbloshie, a slum in Accra, the capital of Ghana, adults and children tear away at computers from abroad to get at the precious metals inside.” Pieter Hugo photographed the desperately poor people, including children as young as 11, who work in the smoke and fire and toxic rubbish to scrabble together a livelihood from our digital cast-offs.
Everyone stays busy these days, and carving out a whole day or even a whole hour to volunteer can seem next to impossible sometimes. Lucky for you, Jacob Colker is on the case. Colker is one of six young people earning a spot in the 2010 Rolex Awards for Enterprise Young Laureates Programme. Watch him in action here:
Announcing their first ever Young Laureate winners, Rolex pointed to Colker’s forward thinking. “Tapping into the latest trends in information and telecommunications technology, Jacob Colker has combined volunteering, the internet and mobile phones to pioneer a new form of activism in which almost anyone with a smartphone can devote spare minutes – waiting for the bus or to see the doctor – to a useful charitable or scientific task. Nearly 30,000 volunteers have now signed up for “micro-volunteering,” carrying out a wide range of tasks, from helping Nasa identify galaxies by examining their shapes to translating the CVs of newly arrived immigrants who are looking for work.” You can learn more about Colker’s idea at www.beExtra.org.
This Colker fellow is in pretty amazing company. The other five Rolex Young Laureates include Nnaemeku Ikegwuonu, a Nigerian who wants to help millions of farmers in his home country exchange information via radio, and Reese Fernandez, a woman in the Philippines who’s helping families earn money by turning scrap materials into fashion accessories.
The six winners earned $50,000 each, which is hopefully enough to keep them on the path toward real innovation that could improve an untold number of lives. To read more and watch video interviews with all six winners, visit http://young.rolexawards.com/