17 November 2010


I chose the telephone because I really want to talk about the cell phone.  The inventor of the telephone, Alexander Graham Bell, believed it "conceivable that cables of telephone wires could be laid underground, or suspended overhead, communicating by branch wires with private dwellings, country houses, shops, manufactories, etc."  His grandiose dreams are realized and surpassed in the cell phone.

Think, first of all, how amazing the telephone is.  You can talk to someone thousands of miles away from you just as you would if he or she were standing before you.  With the cell phone's advanced technology and extreme mobility, however, we can do much more.  For example,
Public health workers in South Africa now send text messages to tuberculosis patients with reminders to take their medication.  In Kenya, people can uses S.M.S. to ask anonymous questions about culturally taboo subjects like AIDS, breast cancer and sexually transmitted diseases, receiving prompt answers from health experts for no charge.
In India, Bapi Das is a 42-year-old commercial painter who uses his cell phone to access his bank account.  And, intriguingly, "the technology used to bring slum-dwellers like Das their first bank accounts is so advanced that it isn't available to even the most tech-savvy Americans."

In developing nations especially, "mobile penetration is expanding dramatically."  There were 250 million African subscribers in 2007.

This phenomenon in which developing nations surpass developed nations is digital leapfrogging.  Paul Levinson wrote in his book Cellphone:
Leapfrogging is possible because, contrary to the usual pattern of technological diffusion, sometimes new media . . . can be less expensive, and thus easier to adopt and disseminate, than older media . . . .  Cellphones these days cost about as much as cassettes did [in the late 1970s].  No wonder cellphone use is growing faster than the capacity of cellphone networks . . . .  As far as the cellphone is concerned, just about everywhere is technologically advanced.

Yes, the Tibetans have limited technological and internet access when compared to developed nations.  However, in which ways has Tibetan technological use leapfrogged the Western world?  How do they use mobile technology?  What does Dharamsala's wireless mesh mean for their technology use?

Photo credit TT Photography, MarkKelley

1 comment:

  1. My classmate Jeff just put up an excellent post on this topic. Check it out!