Thursday, February 2, 2012
May the mobile phone never make us introverted people
By John Mokwetsi
You must remember those 15km commuter omnibus trips into town with that talkative conductor and drunkard debating about all topics current and old from Dynamos' win to the actual date of the Zimbabwean presidential elections.
Do you even remember a good lunch with workmates chatting about the lack of creativity by bosses and wishing if you could start your own company?
Those moments when the sitting room at home was just that?
When I came to the UK last year to start my MA in Digital Media I took the habits with me only to be spectacularly culture shocked.
The ipod and the mobile phone seems to be the gadgets of choice in public transport to discourage conversation.
Often nibbling through the mobile phone will be the guy sitting next to you for a 2 hour trip by coach from Brighton to London Victoria station.
British people spend more time on the mobile or the moving screen as intellectuals call them, than in real conversations. With earphones plugged in, even the students who you expect naturally would be more conversation-friendly, rarely speak to each other and for a man so used to the easy going of a good old chat with a stranger at Market Square commuter's rank in Harare, I have become used also to Facebooking or tweeting than to stare at people who would not want to be noticed they are even there.
The Blackberry, the Iphone, the Ipod are all tools for an introverted society.
In fact you can possibly stand for 30 minutes at a Bus Stop and likely chat on Whatsapp with a colleague in Zimbabwe than the stranger standing staring into space nonchalantly, earphones on, besides you.
I often joke with a South African friend here who despite being vehemently opposed to Facebook and other social networks at first calling them "verbal conversation killers" is nowadays seemingly more fascinated with the pinging sound of his Blackberry Torch 9860 BBM service than he is of a decent conversation during class breaks.
Now seeing that Zimbabwe was estimated to be reaching a Mobile penetration rate of 72% by end of 2011 and according to industry estimates, there are more than 500 million mobile phone
subscribers in Africa now, up from 246 million in 2008 I am afraid the continent famed for its hospitable people might start to feel more in love with Facebook on their 3G compatible devices than it will be with that nagging aunt or a colleague at work.
Stiff competition in Africa’s broadband market sparked by undersea cables has started forcing down telecommunication prices in the region, with mobile phone service providers announcing significant reductions in Internet service prices.
The development of underground and underwater fiber optic cables will be a major foundational infrastructure in Africa.
In fact according to http://www.mobilemonday.net in 2010 a total of 4.54 Terabytes of cable capacity was available across 13 submarine cables in Africa but these were further expected to expand to 24.5 Terabytes by 2011.
And I applaud the rebirth of my continent technology-wise but I must warn that those conversations (forced or otherwise) we are used to and that have been passed from generation to generation as a mark of the importance of family and the ethic of ubuntu might be the major sufferer in this great development.