technology in Kenya

first, please check out Rachel’s really thoughtful posts below!

As our trip draws to a close, I will share a couple quick stories and thoughts I wrote a while ago that I thought were interesting:

DVD’s- only pirated copies are available, for about $1-2 each. Someone left a DVD labeled “Fast and Furious 4” in our apartment, and when we popped it in, we were instead treated to X-men: origins. However, this was not a ripped internet stream, or even someone with a camcorder in a movie theater. This was some sort of pre-production copy of the movie, where half the special effects were incomplete! For example, whenever someone falls or does a stunt, their suspension wires are clearly visible. Even more distracting, when a character is being digitally animated they de-pixelate  into a ‘liquid terminator’-like silver blob. Where does this copy come from???? It must be WAAAAY harder to get a pre-production copy of a movie than the real thing. Someone must have an explanation for this.

Our second foray into local DVD’s was when Rachel picked out Liam Neeson’s recent movie Unknown. The movie started kinda slow, and 30 minutes in we realized we hadn’t seen Liam Neeson yet. That’s because even though the cover pictured Liam Neeson and the title Unknown, the DVD was a recording of a 2006 crime/mystery movie also called Unknown. The movie wasn’t bad, if you find yourself stuck in the same situation.

At least the guy who sold Rachel the Unknown DVD threw in a pretty good copy of Tropic Thunder.

Cell phones- everyone has one (in fact 5 billion of the 7 billion people in the world have access to cell phones). In Kenya phones are surprisingly cheap to own and use. A brand new Nokia phone only costs $25 (no termination fees or contracts!), text messages are 1 cent each, and calls are a penny per minute. Your tuk-tuk, motorcycle, and even bicycle taxi drivers are talking or texting while they drive you around. We even bought a wireless modem, nicknamed a “dongle” for only $25 and data plans were comparable to the U.S. Safaricom is the dominant cell phone provider here, and they had full service even while we were surrounded by zebras and giraffes in the Maasai Mara. Yes, we could have live blogged our safari! As a contrast, have you ever tried using a cell phone in Yosemite or Yellowstone? Last I checked they don’t work.

Anyways, the reason that gets me excited is I believe mobile phones, particularly smartphones (iphones, blackberries, android, etc), have huge potential to help us monitor our health and health behaviors. I can give an hour lecture on this if you let me, but I’ll summarize and say that within a few years, it will be possible for your phone to be a little angel (or devil) on your shoulder, letting you know all the information you want or don’t want to know to help you make health and other decisions. ‘don’t wait for the elevator, take the stairs and you’ll burn an extra 10 calories!’… ‘those oreos you’re looking at have 1843719 grams of sugar, check out those ripe bananas on sale!’ Whether we choose to listen to this feedback remains to be seen. This type of technology is quickly scalable to developing countries like Kenya, where it is already surprisingly common to see people clicking away on iphones, blackberries, and other data-enabled phones.

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Published in: on May 27, 2011 at 6:00 pm  Comments (1)  

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  1. Reblogged this on Black European.


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