Thursday, 14 March 2013

Smartphone technology excites my village

After a year’s absence from my village, last week, I took the road to Kibaale district, in mid-Western Uganda. The road from Kampala to my maternal village in Kibaale is very dusty and so bad. That road has appeared in 10 national budget speeches but it is yet to be upgraded to tarmac.

Apart from the bad road; which is almost a common complaint from travelers in other upcountry parts of Uganda, I was rather thrilled by the trappings of technological changes that are taking my village by storm. The proliferation of internet and mobile phone technology has somewhat changed the village when compared to the time I grew up as a lad grazing goats there.

Computer jargon like memory cards, Bluetooth and digital cameras on mobile phones is now widely taking root. Surprisingly, an army of my illiterate and semi illiterate-but-youthful village-mates are using this technology. Certainly, this cum-Smartphone technology is a new dawn in many other Uganda villages.

Thanks to the competition spurred by Uganda’s telecom companies; and of course, the flooding cheap Chinese-made cell phones on the market. A growing number of youth in my village now own cell phones with memory cards and cameras. Computer-familiar lingua like gigabytes, megabytes and kilobytes are now common in the village. 
Some of the smartphones on market. Getty Image
Retail dealers in mobile phones and their memory cards are making a kill in this village. The dealers are selling a 1GB memory card at Uganda shillings 40,000 ($15) yet one can get the same capacity memory card from Kampala’s street shops at Shillings 10,000.
Those who don’t have these “tech” mobile phones are clearing the shrubs to plant onions whose sales will bring the much needed cash to buy the ‘smart phone’ of sorts. As of now, the motivating factor to buy the cell phone with a memory card is loading and playing audio and video music which they use as caller ringtones and for entertainment.

For these youths and stylish old guys, it is a cool thing to have a phone with memory card and one that can access internet. They need internet for following the standings of the English Football premier league. The reason is to enable participation in sports betting (call it gambling) which is now spreading like wild fire across Uganda. Soccer enthusiastic youth spend most of their betting on which European football team will win the Champions League instead of farming or engaging in other more useful income generating activities.

A handful of youths in my village, who have had the enviable opportunity to acquire a Uganda Certificate of Education or college level of education, are using mobile phone internet to keep in touch with their peers on Facebook.  Hopefully, these social media ‘apps’ on cheap cell phones that almost work like those on Smartphones or iPhones will help ease access to information and make my people in the village appreciate technology even more. This will in turn help create an army informed citizens that will make informed decisions.

By Mubatsi Asinja Habati  

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