What are technology's effects on culture?
The rise of mobile internet access is allowing many people to connect who haven't had access to desktop machines or fixed-line broadband in the past. Mobile phones will account for nearly 10% of African GDP by the end of the decade due to explosive growth in the telecoms industry. There are more mobile phones than adults in most African countries. This is having a significant economic, social and cultural impact on the continent. One of the cultural effects has been a growth in the number of innovators and entrepreneurs leveraging mobile technology in areas like business, healthcare and education.
One of the greatest success stories and cultural game changers has been M-Pesa, a mobile money transfer system introduced in Kenya in 2007. 70% of Kenyan adults use M-Pesa, making 9 million transactions daily. The service has become a popular alternative to cash for both businesses and the government. Users must register on the system and deposit cash with an agent who then credits the money to a pin-protected digital wallet. They can then use their mobile phone to pay for things or to transfer money to another user. Bob Collymore, chief executive of Kenya’s leading telecoms firm, Safaricom, which operates M-Pesa, explained that “in many ways, it symbolises how mobiles are being used differently in Africa than in other parts of the world.”
As handsets and data have become more affordable, mobile technology has outpaced other forms of communications infrastructure on the continent. This is changing how public services are delivered and business and politics are being conducted. “This will have a huge democratising effect,” says John Githongo, one of Kenya’s leading anti-corruption campaigners. “We are already witnessing a transformation in the way people relate to their governments, as we saw in Zimbabwe recently, where a protest movement sprang simply from a post on the internet that captured the imagination of the public.” Githongo insists that the mobile technology revolution has improved transparency and given a greater voice to citizens.
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