Changing a Nation

How do we live? Every day you wake up. Groggy. Tired. Your eyes won’t open. Alarmpiercing through your ears. Sit up. Try your hardest. And then you check yourphone. (Musicoverlay) Tennotifications. Three Facebook messages. Two snapchats. Instagram likes, and youwere tagged in someone else’s photo. An email, and two texts from who you hopeis your crush, but is instead mom telling you to have a good day. Phone blinksgreen, on and off, on and off. Hit snooze. Ten minutes of silence. Lie down,and close your eyes. Relax. Relax. Relax. (Voicefades away) (Music Stops) (Alarm) Situp. Check your phone. Eleven notifications. Mom says that there’s leftoverpizza. (Completesilence) Thisis how we live. It’sa technological world, and we are the most affluent. (Musiccontinues) Cracktwo eggs. Fry bacon. (Sizzling) Eatwhile watching Sportscenter. Reimer made thirty-three saves. Phaneuf hit thenet. Lupel scored twice. Analysists circle players as they pass around others,back and forth, creating plays, weaving in lines. Technology– ICTs – control everything around us. They run our lives. Determine whathappens on a day to day basis. Each and every action you do is run by them. Andyet a majority of people in Africa do not have access to even a radio. The mostbasic forms of modern technology are lost. Society is changed. There’sa stereotype going around, and it’s been going around for quite some time.Africa is poor. They need our help. How can a civilization possibly thriveliving off the sole, unlimited recourse of dirt? Hundreds of charities werecreated. Thriving off the popular view that Africa is a continent in dire needof our support, they beg for donations of money. Seventy five dollars can buy agoat. One hundred dollars can provide food for a family of four, up to anentire year. Two hundred can be spent towards the purchase of mosquito nets,directly resulting in the decrease of those infected critically with HIV. Thenumber of yearly Sub-Saharan African’s infected with HIV each year for thosewho may be curious, is one and a half million (BLOG POST 1 LINK). That’s aroundhalf of Toronto, Canada’s most populated city. Howdid this stereotype come to be? I’m not saying it’s wrong. We’re not saying itwas ever wrong to begin with. Sub-Saharan Africa is the poorest region in thepoverty stricken continent. Highlighted as a key feature is that the region’sGDP is among the lowest in the entire world. But they don’t eat dirt. Theydon’t live among the mud. You won’t arrive by cargo plane filled with sterilizedneedles and HIV medication, shaking, wearing a bulletproof vest in cowardlyfeat of the surrounding, war-painted savages. They won’t be holding stonesharpened spears laced with the poison of an emerald-dart frog. They won’t befoaming at the mouth, begging for water, with handmade shanks tucked into aceremonial feather-dress waistband. No,it won’t be like this. Especially today, now that, according to Enock Yonazi,Tim Kelly, Naomi Halewood, and Colin Blackman, Africa’s GDP is growing by fivepercent yearly, making it one of the world’s fastest growing economies inhistory (6, 2012). And, is it purely a coincidence that this has been happeningover the past several years, just as the rest of the world has begun to donatea growing number of ICTs rather than plain, simple, worthless money? Understandthis: As of 2012, 7% of Africa’s GDP is attributed to ICTs. 7% of Africa’seconomy – the fastest growing GDP in the world – is dedicated solely to theintegration, and relation of ICTs in African society. Yet the continent has thelowest recorded amount of ICTs in the entire world. PeterMeso, Philip Musa, and Victor Mbarika state that, “Sub-Saharan Africa… has morethan 26 million mobile-phone subscribers and a mobile phone density of 1.13 per100 inhabitants.” (120, 2005). Stated in a simpler way, per every one hundredSub-Saharan African citizens, approximately 1.13 of them will have access to amobile-phone.
That’san extraordinarily small amount, especially given that in Canada, a populationof 35,851.8 million (Statscan), there are a total of 29,062,796 mobile-phonesubscribers (CWTA). This is a similar amount of phone subscribers, however itis crucial to understand that the population of Sub-Saharan Africa is 973.4million, while Canada’s is 35,851.8 million. It’s a vast difference. What’sthe importance of the cellphone? How can it possibly account for 7% of such alarge populations GDP? Truth be told it isn’t only the phone. ICTs range fromphones, to televisions, and even the Stone Age radio. Studying themobile-phone, there are a significant amount of contributions it makes toAfrican society. EnockYonazi, Tim Kelly, Naomi Halewood, and Colin Blackman state, “[Phones allow]people to access health information, agricultural price data or educationalgames, ICTs can strengthen other sectors, and possibly the whole economy.” (6,2012). This is the perfect explanation for what Peter Meso, Philip Musa, andVictor Mbarika describe as a cultural movement. They say, “…The region haswitnessed meteoric growth in mobile ICT density in the past 3 to 5 years and iscredited with having the fastest teledensity growth in the world” (121, 2005) Mobile-phonesalone have given a poverty stricken nation the power and knowledge to build upwhat has constantly fallen down. Upon Sub-Saharan Africa lies the ruins of acivilization never built, and it is obvious that the integration and use ofICTs in their culture is the mortar and cement required to grow. Itmay all seem a little farfetched. Exaggerated even, but consider for a momentthe amount you use your own phone. As stated at the start of this episode, itdictates most of our daily routine. Taking a survey of fifty students at YorkUniversity, thirty-two out of fifty said that they would not be able to livefor more than a week without their phones. We research, contact, and connectourselves all across the globe at the touch of a screen. And those inSub-Saharan Africa do the same. “Phones allow access to health information…” meaning,without medical attention or the ability to drive and see a doctor utilizingfree, insurance-covered health care, those living in Sub-Saharan Africa areable to understand everyday illnesses, and even some methods of treatingadvanced wounds, infections, and diseases. They become aware of how to preventbecoming ill, and other ways to boost their immune systems. 25.8 millionSub-Saharan African’s are currently infected with HIV Aids (amfAR).Mobile-phones can reduce this number drastically, and even provide methods onslowing the effects which come with the dire illness.
They also have the ability to improve entire sectorsof society. An example of this is agriculture. With access to mobile-phones,Sub-Saharan Africans are able to research and explore new methods on farming, cultivating,and selling produce and land to other regions of the world. They are able toestablish strong, accurate pricing for such produce, and are also able to doall this more efficiently due to new methods which differ from their ancient,olden ways of labour. A prime example of this is explicitly mentioned in theresearch paper The Transformational Useof Information and Communication Technologies in Africa, where the writersstate, “Africa is especially vulnerable to the impacts of climate change becauseits major economic sectors are more sensitive to climate change and because ithas lower levels of general economic development.” Their solution to thisproblem is ICTs, and the information they provide to African inhabitants.“African countries are preparing for the potential consequences of climatechange by building their understanding of climate science, identifyingpriorities and planning for adaptation, and implementing targeted adaptationmeasures.” (15, 2012). This knowledge was unidentified before the integrationof ICTs within the African societies. Not only does this information protectthe agricultural epicenter of Sub-Saharan Africa, but it warns the citizens ofother problems arising in their nation, which contributes to the continued successand survivability of virtually every other part of African society.
Another important fact is the amount of highereducation among Sub-Saharan Africans. “Unfortunately, the opportunity for highereducation in sub-Saharan Africa remains limited: only 3% of 18- to 25-year-oldsare able to attend college.” (125, 2005) (ILLUMINATED BLOG POST 2). When youask, how can ICTs possibly for such a drastic rise in African GDP, you mustconsider not only how it positively effects the individual, GDP sectors of theeconomy, but also how it effects the individual residents. ICTs (television,radio, phone lines) can provide education to those who obtain such. Across theinternet there are thousands upon thousands of free university and high schoolcourses offered in the form of a tutorial. Sub-Saharan Africans are given theoprotunity to achieve higher learning for a fraction of the cost. This thenresults in what Adam Smith called, “The Division of Labour.” Sub-SaharanAfricans specialize their skills, and begin to focus heavily on specific fieldsof education pertaining to specific jobs and tasks they regularly perform,increasing their productivity and capital, thus increasing African economy andsupplementing towards the constantly rising GDP. Briefly summarized, educationprovided through ICTs is a simpler version of higher learning, resulting inmore efficient workers. This idea makes sense when you consider how oftenstudents use their own phones for personal, and academic research. In the samesurvey asked to fifty York University students, only fifteen said they usetheir phone to find information less than five times a day. Not only does the integration of ICTs provide singulareducation; a personal form of learning. It also employs. “In 2011, the mobilephone ecosystem provided more than five million jobs and contributed aroundUS$15 billion directly to government revenues in sales and import taxes andregulatory fees.” (AT Kearney, 2011, p 21) All these factors combined explainthe rapid growth Sub-Saharan Africa has faced. Despite only making up 7% oftheir GDP, ICTs have directly influenced almost every bit of change occurringin the continent. “Africa’s economy has enjoyed a renaissance in the 2000s(OECD et al, 2011) with the average rate of economic growth of almost 5 per cent,which is higher than anything achieved since the 1970s... it is not too fancifulto believe that the wider availability of ICTs has also contributed greatly tothis African renaissance.” (Yonazi, 23). Why does any of this matter? Africa is, as I said, goingthrough the largest cultural shift in its history, integrating millions ofpeople to the use of mobile-phones and other ICTs. It matters because wecontinue to give money to Africa, and donate to these hundreds of charities whobase themselves off the stereotype of a stone age Africa, and yet we do notimpact the GDP. Why donate money when we can donate phones, radios, computers,and televisions? Why are we not trying drastically to improve Sub-SaharanAfrica’s GDP further than it is already increasing through the donation andfurther implementation of ICTs in their society? This is why it matters. Thisis why we care about the impact of technology in a continent so far away.Across Oceans, and deserts, there is change occurring, and we are breaking thebackbone instead of reinforcing it. “It's not about the phone or the computer; it’s about theapplications and the information they deliver.” (Yonazi, 24) What I’m trying toreinforce is creating an institutional drive in Sub-Saharan Africa. Create afree market based solely off competition, and immediately the economy begins toincrease. This market – this competition – is created through institutions. Wesim to institutionalize, and this can be done by providing Africa with thenecessary recourses to institutionalize. This is done through ICTs. Theapplications and information delivered through them is comparable to that ofuniversity education; experience in the work force; new technological advanceswhich create movement within a society. Where’s the proof. Why should we be focusing our moneyon ICTs instead of simple donations? Why am I calling to charities to changethe way they think? Evidence is found when studying the individual sectorsof Sub-Saharan African society, and how ICTs affect them individually. Agriculture is one of Africa’s most important, andlargest economic sectors. Yet, “Like other sectors, African agriculture isdisadvantaged owing to factors that include: • under-investment in rural areas, • inadequate access to markets and unfair market conditions, • inadequate access to advanced technologies, • weak infrastructure, • high production and transport costs, • gender asymmetry in access to assets and services, • conflicts, • HIV/AIDS, • natural disasters, • deforestation, environmental degradation and loss of biodiversity, and • dependency on foreign aid.” (Yonazi, 40)

The problem with African agriculture is the knowledgegap it faces when comparing it to a society such as Canada, or the UnitedStates of America. “This type of agriculture is predominantly rain-fed, haslow-yielding production, and lacks access to critical information, marketfacilitation, and financial intermediation services.” (Yonazi, 40) What we learn is the importance of technology. To us,North Americans who have the privilege of a cell phone, it is common. Nothingmore than an everyday occurrence. Observing ICTs in our community is one of themost normal, dull, and common practice. In Sub-Saharan Africa, it is new. Abeautiful piece of machinery which redefines their entire way of living. A cellphone can alter lives. Radios can change the way they think. Televisions altertheir perceptions of the world around. ICTs have changed the way an entireculture lives. From waking up, to sleeping the next night, Africa has, asproven, changed for the better. ICTs account for seven percent of theirexponential GDP growth, and, as we finally begin to understand the importanceof technology over money – machinery over charitable donation – Africa’s GDPwill only continue to grow, and as studies show the seven percent accounted forby ICTs will become greater and greater. Africa is a nation vastly differentfrom our own. From the culture, to the physical land, each and every inch oftheir lives is grossly misunderstood. But through technology, they aredestroying our stereotypes, and reshaping a community. The proof of change isall around. And only in these illuminated moments can we watch, for the firsttime, a fallen nation climb from fallen rubble, to grow great once more.

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