Growing up in the US, I didn't have much first-hand knowledge of technological progress in other countries. I assumed some countries were rich, which meant they had lots of cars, computers and electricity, whereas others were poor, which meant that most people cooked on charcoal, used kerosene for light and went through their lives without making a phone call. I'd developed a (not uncommon) cognitive shortcut: technological progress happens in parallel, so countries are high-tech or low-tech, never a blend of the two.
One trip to sub-Saharan Africa is all it takes to demonstrate the failings of this mental shortcut. Wireless ISPs were common in the Ghanaian capital of Accra before public Wi-Fi nodes were widespread in the US. My hacker friends in Lagos work from taxicabs, logging on to 4G networks. In Kenya, 70 percent of adults use M-Pesa, a phone-based payment system, to buy groceries and send money to family. On much of the African content, telecoms infrastructure is world class, whereas transport, power and other infrastructures lag far behind...[continue reading] .[view whole blog post ]