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Last Updated: Friday, 18 November 2005, 19:46 GMT
Is technology leaving you behind?
Faridah Shatra, a student at Uganda's Mbale Islamic University. Photo: George Osodi
World leaders are meeting in Tunisia to discuss the digital divide, but is technological change helping Africa to move forward?

There are 85 million mobile phones in Africa, many used for communication that land lines have failed to deliver. And where there is no bank, you can now use your phone to transfer money.

Farmers can find out commodity prices before selling their stock and health messages can be delivered by text, depending of course on good connections.

However cost and access are still huge issues for the majority wanting to join the new information society.

What is your experience? What is technology doing for you? Do you feel left behind by new technology? Or do most people not miss what they never had or needed? What could technology be doing for Africa's development?

This debate is now closed. Thank you for your comments.


Your comments:

I visited Nigeria in September and half my holiday allowance was spent on the telephone. The mobile phone service provider in Nigeria is better than the old state run corporation which was inefficient and exploitative. You make a call and at the other end the man doesn't hear you. After "Hello! Hello!" A minute is gone, and so is your credit!
Temitope Osho, London

Technology in Africa is still leaving us behind because it is mainly only for the rich few while the poor man in a village like mine does not even know a mobile phone nor computer. But it has done a little good for me and Africa as a whole becouse comunication is easier and a few things can be done very fast. But it is also leaving Africans unemployed due to companies resorting to things being conputerised, without students being trained to work on them.
Wanjala Martin, Kasese, Uganda

God bless technology it is making life worth living every day
Ismail Mahamud, USA
The strides in technological development, especially in mobile phone communication have helped Sierra Leoneans to be closer to one another. I remember when I was writing my thesis on rural broadcasting I had to spend a lot of money on collecting material. We did not have cell phones then.

Now it's incredible. I can wake in the morning in Freetown and talk to my people in Kailahun and even give instructions to my bank to pay money to them by phone or email. I can also provide agricultural extension services by phone to farmers far at home. God bless technology it is making life worth living every day.
Mustapha Braima, Freetown-Sierra Leone

My life is a part of the new technology and I feel I am a part of it.
Ismail Mahamud, USA

Mobile phones cause interruptions to conversations or meetings. They also exploit the poor African.
Josephat M. Mwanzi, Mwanza City

It is not so much the acquisition of the technology that is a hurdle, rather it is the cost of establishing a stable infrastructure, maintaining it, such as where do you charge your cell phone if you live in house with no electricity. Charging cell phones has become a business on its own, not to mention the infamous costs for air-time be it at the internet cafe or your cell-phone. As one woman farmer in Malawi put it: "I used to flash my friends and disconnect before they picked it up, I thought it would not cost me, but to my surprise, I found out that the telephone company take a charge even if you do not speak." Koma Abale, umphawi umabvuta! (My goodness, poverty is a problem!)"
Linley Chiwona-Karltun, Uppsala, Sweden

Mobile phones have brought many changes to Africa, but in Nigeria they are costing poor people a lot of money because they are expensive to maintain. It is also causing much anti-social behaviour as people shout anywhere and anytime disturbing others. Also, some little criminals will do anything to get your mobile phone.
George Onmonya Daniel, Abuja, Nigeria

Some girls will do anything to have a mobile phone even if it is in exchange for sex
Israel Ambe Ayongwa, Bamenda, Cameroon
Technology has really transformed lives here in Cameroon. When mobile phones first came here, I remember how fashionable it was to be in possession of one, or even to be related to anybody who had one. People even used them as a fashion accessory. Some hung them around their necks like dogs on a leash, while others swung it ostentatiously from their hips. The ladies preferred to hold it as though showing the whole world. In as much as this has facilitated communication, it has its drawbacks. Some girls will do anything to have one even if it is in exchange for sex.
Israel Ambe Ayongwa, Bamenda, Cameroon

To tell the truth technological change is helping Africa to move forward. I am always in touch with friends all over the world using e-mails and my cell phone. I can send a message to a friend in the UK using sms text messaging and receive responses within a day. You can get whatever information you want on internet. The only problem is that the technology is very expensive. To be connected to internet costs a lot in Malawi and to buy a computer is another hurdle.
Allanie Njateni, Malawi

How can we talk of technology in a continent where more than half of it citizens live below the poverty line? The use of technology is still a dream for most people in Africa. A call per unit in communication technology in most African countries can buy bread for the poor. So most of them do not see a need for technology. Those who dream of using technology cannot afford it.
Osuigwe Chukwuemeka, Nigerian in South Africa

Technology has made easy almost all human activities. With the aid of the mobile phone, I find it much easier to get work done faster. I get in touch with friends and business partners and get business going. This would have been done in the past, by spending the whole day looking for one's business partner around the town, paying transport fares in the process. I would rather join the bandwagon of technology than going back in time.
Sylvester Simon, Bissau, Rep. of Guinea Bissau

Poor people have gone starving in order to purchase mobile phones for showing off.
Ahmed Kateregga Musaazi, Kampala, Uganda
I am tired of mobile phones, since l have been robbed of eight of them! The last one was stolen just two days ago in the early morning. Mobile phone robbery is on the increase in Kampala. Even though mobile phones are popular and have made communication easy, they are expensive and poor people have gone starving in order to purchase them for showing off. The solution should be to install public pay phone booths in outlying areas rather than encouraging each individual to have a mobile phone.
Ahmed Kateregga Musaazi, Kampala, Uganda

I am awed by the drastic change that mobile telephony has made in my country, Kenya. Many people have been hired in related industries so there are more much needed jobs. Communication has improved and above all, this is the first reliable service you can get without having to bribe anyone. Unfortunately, good communication when we still have poor infrastructure and roads can only go so far. We need new and improved highways if we are to open the continent to more economic development.
Wanjeri, Boston, USA

Technology enhances communication. Today Africans can also communicate to anyone anywhere. Though this has contributed to the various developments in Africa, it has also affected our work and saving habits. Today someone thinks he has to own a cell phone even if he/she cannot afford its maintenance fees.
Prossy Nannyombi, Entebbe, Uganda

Technology helps me with faster communications with my relatives and friends all over the world. I started email communications in 1998 and, since then, it has been exciting. But in some aspects, I'm unhappy to see the ways my people are remaining behind as far as technology is concerned. I hope the modern technological communications will be soon introduced to my country, southern Sudan so that Southern Sudanese will have access to what is happening in other parts of the world.
Peter Tuach, Minnesota, USA




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