Here is an interesting question – do we have a choice to use technology or not? This may seem like a silly question that has no meaning. But …
There are two basic ways of thinking about this – technology is inevitable, it is a progression over which we have no choice. We must accept it. It is human nature to want to innovate and improve the way we live. We want more efficiency in our lives. We want a better standard of living. Let me present an example. If you are reading this blog, you have access to a computer or smart-phone, internet connectivity and probably a telephone. Think about looking for employment. You would probably Google “job seeker” (or something like that), search on LinkedIn or Facebook, search different job listing sites and even register with some of them. You find an opportunity. How do you communicate with the employer? Email, telephone, Skype maybe. You are connected. You can gain access to hundred of thousands of jobs.
Shift your perspective a bit. You don’t have access to the internet or a smart-phone. Now look for a job. Would you go back to the telephone book? Buy a newspaper hoping to find a position and hope for a phone number, instead of an email address or web link? It would probably be harder to get a job but at least you can still phone.
Shift your perspective even more – now you don’t even have a telephone. You need to walk door to door in the hope you get lucky and find a job.
This thought experiment highlights the issue. Your probability of getting employment diminishes with each step that reduces your access to technology. The less you have the less opportunity you have to find a job.
The supporters of the idea that technology dictates the way we live, think about technology as inevitable. This inevitability means that ultimately we think we are making a choice, but the choice we actually make is inevitable. If you don’t have a smart-phone or an internet connection, then you limit your opportunities. Sure you can elect not to use them but the reality is that you will struggle to actually get that job. Improving your odds of getting a job require you to be as connected as possible. So what does this mean for you as a person?
In Africa, poor and disconnected communities have very little choice. Opportunities are scarce and the government carries responsibility for creating these opportunities. We pay taxes right? So why do we have any reason to contribute to change this?
My point of view is a little different.
Governments in Africa are often corrupt and if not corrupt then they lack funds. They lack skills and sometimes even the will to change society for the better. Some governments look at the recent events in places like Libya and get scared. It cannot be left to governments alone. We all need to make a change for the good. So each of us need to contribute. If we stand together we can create the technology for Africa to transform and to change. We can give all people opportunities and guess what, if governments don’t like it, fear it or try to stop it, we should all still just do it.
I mentioned that there are two basic ways of thinking about the question whether we have a choice to use technology or not; I believe that the inevitability of technology is not something I am willing to accept. I want to have a say about what technology means in my life, how and when I want to use it. I am not sure how yet, but I know it needs to change.
What do you think?