Wednesday, June 28, 2006

New Technology: Who Benefits?

Peace, one and all,
I was watching an Open University programme this morning after Fajr. The subject was the development of new communication technologies. Specifically, they were referring mainly to newly emerging technologies such as VSDL and a range of mobile and satellite networks. Now it has to be said that I'm no techie: wyzywig (if I've spelt it correctly) sounds like a tellytubby to me!
However, one thing that did interest me was the idea that new handheld computers could use each other to develop a network, thereby making communication much cheaper. The programme raised the possibility that these computers could make education much more freely available for school children in the developing world. An interesting and noble thought for sure. Would it really happen though?
Such technological revolutions often seem (to me) to be in some way dependent upon the poverty of the developing world. In other words, if we were spending much more money helping our brethren to develop themselves, would we have had the money to develop these new technologies? I don't know, but I do seriously doubt that multinational corporations are really altruistic enough to give such gadgets away. Well, perhaps I'm just being cynical (though I hope not).
This reminds of another programme I watched recently about new ecologically sound housing. You know, the kind that has its own solar panels, low water-use toilets and so on. It looked absolutely fantastic and I'd be really interested in having such an advanced home myself. However, as useful as such new homes are in showing the way forward, how much impact do they really have? That is, if these remain isolated examples then how much good are they doing?
Such homes seem to be mainly for a certain wealthy elite. Things will really start to change when such technology becomes cheap enough for most people (or even all people) to use. I'd love to have such gadgets; but, I simply cannot afford them (al hamdu lillah, I'm happy with the rizq which Allah has given me).
Organic food often seems the same. Vastly over-priced (when using less stuff) and it always seems to look like its been kicked around the warehouse floor. Make it cheaper and more people will buy it.
I think I'll get off my soapbox now!
Ma'as salama,
Abdur Rahman

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