angry penguin


Scritturare (engage)

Brian Alleyne's weblog on culture, politics, and technology

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Hardware hacking: a route out of poverty in Africa
angry penguin


As part of my on-going research into hacker culture, I have come across a very interesting website that documents ways in which people in Africa are inventing and adapting technology to solve the problems they face:

Toy Remote Controlled Car made from recycled materials – Cameroon.

The situation is grim: life expectancy in much of Africa is twenty years lower than the norm for rich countries. And perhaps most telling of all, is that most of the Millenium Development goals articulated in 2000, will not be achieved by the 2015 target. The reasons for this are many: the global economic crisis and continued political instability on the content are two that come most readily to mind. In the main, the rich world has failed to live up to their promises.

Africa needs  help, and that help is less than often thought, as economist Jeffrey Sachs has shown. But entrenched ideas of African backwardness, underpinned by residual racism, mean that Africans are generally portrayed in the West as either mendicants, or as the authors of their own tragic circumstances. Revolution in thought and action saw the Western elites of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries come to understand that they share the nation-state with masses who must be uplifted in order for the whole nation to  make peaceful progress. We need such a revolution now, but on a global scale, as anthropologist Keith Hart has argued. We all have to see ourselves as part of a global humanity engaged in a collective project to improve the human condition, which must leave no one behind. Communitarian thinking based on out-dated notions of  nation and ethnicity is a barrier to achieving this and must be swept away. The refusal to see Africans as part of a global humanity is thus to be condemned, but changing that perception will require time. Meanwhile thousands of children will continue to die on that continent due to lack of adequate food and shelter and from easily preventable diseases.

In this context I see hope in the emergence of a hacking culture in Africa, where local people adapt technologies in ways that suit their circumstances and that meet their needs. Out of  this there will emerge indigenous technologically-based industry in Africa, from which economic growth will surely follow. Sach’s Millennium Village projects, and the work highlighted on Afrigadget point the way forward.

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Finally a plan which envolves empowering the african masses!!

Maybe not entirely, but it is a start.

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