Equality for South Africa Through Technology

After doing some research this week I was struck at the fact that there was so little information on this topic. How is it that a generation born into a technological revolution cannot see that technology may just be our answered prayer to fighting the problems in the world. For a few obvious, and a few not so obvious reasons. What problems am I referring to? I am talking about the interpersonal and individual problems we face on a daily basis. I am talking about social problems on a state, country, and global level. I am talking about war. I am talking about justice. I am talking about education. But mostly, I am talking about poverty. According to Martin Burt’s ‘How technology can eliminate, not allviate poverty’, “Technology allows many things today that were inconceivable or impractical in the past…technology enables poor people to self-diagnose their own level of poverty in 30 minutes using a smartphone or a tablet. For the first time, a family in a poor slum or a rural village has the capacity to take stock of their own situation, which is very empowering.” In case this seems a bit far fetched and you’re not quite buying it, let me break it down.

PERSONAL PROBLEMS

Anyone living in a first and privileged world will not disagree with the notion that access to unlimited information has helped them sometime somewhere on a very personal level. Be it Googling relationship advice, job openings, health concerns, the list goes on and on. We use the internet as our source of information, as our advice, as our entertainment. I often laugh at my dependence on the internet as I face a situation that leaves me thinking “what would I do without this?” I wake up and stream my music, check my social media for conversations with my many contacts I have developed around the world, check my email and support app for work, use google maps to get to my meetings, you get the idea. I heard a quote the other day that really intrigued me…”In an age of information it is a choice to be ignorant” So it got me thinking, maybe if I pulled my white privileged head out of my a** I could see something far more powerful to do with these tools then find the latest music and keep up with the highly marketed form of escapism in the form of Hollywood dreams. And there is.

SOCIAL ISSUES

People all over the world have started to use social media as a way to spread information. Now, granted, a lot of it is biased opinions with a lack of credibility and research, however, a lot isn’t. In an age where newspapers and mainstream media is slowly dying, we rely on our communities (as we did back in hunter gatherer days) to receive our information. We scan our facebooks for the latest trends and if your timeline is anything like mine it is also where you hear about the latest updates in regards to economics, feminist issues, same sex and transgender fights for equality, immigration issues, right down to police brutality, terrorist attacks and the many protests swarming the youth of South Africa. In fact, any smart politician knows this and instead of putting up lame posters on the side of the road have taken hold of this opportunity and become ever more active online. We fool ourselves into thinking the world is moving backwards. Research shows that we are at our least violent that we have been in human history. China has the fastest moving animal rights initiative in the world (yes even faster than the mighty Los Angeles). A dying African leader outlawed female circumcision. Same sex marriage was legalized. Marijuana is on a fast moving track to becoming more mainstream with its many medical and mental benefits. Woman are coming closer and closer to finally reaching that equality they have been fighting for for so long. Black lives matter. Fees must fall. This is not the description of a global society moving backwards, change takes time, but Millennials are tired. Baby boomers may have ruined the global economy but it is time to stop finger pointing and do something about it. We have the means, we have the passion. This is our time.

SEE THE CHANGE

So we have clarified that the internet helps us make sense of our own psyche and how it has a very powerful way of changing our thought processes and opinions by giving us not only infinite articles and research, but the ability to talk to a wide range of people (and anyone who has traveled anywhere knows that there is nothing more humbling). Now its time to think about the possibilities technology brings to the table in a physical and tangible way.

Below is just a simple overview of the few things technology can, does, and will improve:

 

  1. Education
  2. Surveys and Polls
  3. Agriculture
  4. Banking
  5. Data Analysis
  6. Health Care
  7. Decrease Crime

 

Let me paint you a picture here. Lets, for a moment, imagine a world where technology has removed cash for example. That my entire world is on my phone. I pay through my phone, I communicate through my phone, I travel via my phone, I learn through my phone.

I wake up for work ready to tackle yet another day. I wake up in a squatter camp, but thanks to local government I am fully equipped with wifi connection and electricity. I am no longer oppressed by large corporations or the privilege of others. I am equal. I have equal means and equal opportunity. THROUGH technology, I have been empowered. My monthly paraffin arrives, delivered by an old friend of mine. He uses his smartphone as a point of sale. He does not carry cash. Last year his friend was shot because of cash. Ever since, he has been able to accurately track his earnings and spendings while being safe and secure. I reach the taxi rank and tap my phone to pay for my fare. Quick, easy, and fair (to both me and the taxi’s business). While on route, I take a few surveys. One about health care, one about a local event, one about education, and all of a sudden my voice has been heard. I matter. My input matters. I share a few articles, informing those around me. Now, WE matter. My community and country matters. I am reminded of my prescription medication that is ready to be collected, all while my daily steps and diet is recorded. I am healthier than I have been in my life. Almost at work, I decide to listen to some of my business audiobooks. I am learning more and more every day because I have ACCESS to this information. I am growing at an exponential rate. I am my best version of myself. I am free. I look around me and everyone is with me. There is little crime because there is little demand for my phone. Everyone has one. You have one, he has one, she has one. They don’t want mine, but they do want my cash. Stealing my phone would be pointless as my funds would be canceled immediately. I feel an overwhelming sense of belonging. Through technology I am healthier, smarter, stronger, but more than that, I have all the power in the world to make it even better. I have a voice. One that was taken from me centuries ago, but its back, and all because of a device man created. We are using it right.

Food is cheaper because of improved methods of farming, health care is effective, overpriced schooling isn’t necessary, the list goes on.

Right lets come back to reality for a second. The world isn’t free, nor is it cashless, nor is it empowering everyone from every walk of life. But it could be.

“More governments must become aware of the advantages of digital technologies” so that we can start to make massive changes in the way things are done. In my opinion, it is ridiculous that we are still fighting battles with poverty and hunger. We should be fighting social issues. We should have progressed far enough by now to know that every body needs the essentials, that they GET the essentials, that we have the opportunity to become something great. It’s time to let go of the old systems, the unfair portions.

In the words of Bo Burnham “Maybe life on earth could be heaven, doesn’t just the thought of it make it worth a try”.

 

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