28 July 2017 | Timothy D. Bair| MediaShift
In Remote African Tribes, Mobile Phones Are Amazing Tools, but There’s a Downside
“With the explosion of mobile technology in developing countries, a common narrative is that phones are transforming poor people’s lives. Phones, the story goes, reduce the effort required to search for information and make commerce more efficient.
As technology has spread, so has research on its effects. With support from the National Geographic Committee for Research and Exploration, I study how Maasai pastoralists in Tanzania respond to various issues, including biodiversity conservation, globalization and technology. I and others are learning that mobile phones are changing lives, but perhaps not as much as some may think.
Phones As New Tools
Recent studies have found that phones are critical new technologies to combat pastoralists’ greatest challenge: uncertainty. For generations, herders have moved across the landscape in search of forage and water for their livestock.
Social networks are paramount for sharing information, but communication has long been challenging. Now, with phones, herders can share information easily, quickly and over great distances.
In Benin and Ethiopia, researchers have found that phones help facilitate social connections for Fulani and Borana herders, respectively. But efforts to leverage phones for broader economic gains are hampered by illiteracy and limited cellular coverage.
Tired of Trump? Join the Hawkins Bay Revolution. Power to the People, Oh Yeah