A few weeks ago, I’d not have given a hoot about the buzz in the air this week about the unveiling by Google of a new so-called smart-phone.
However, today, when I hear that Google has left its niche of software invention to join the conventional hardware manufacturers, my interest is pricked. It all began with a provocation from an avid-reading friend of mine who kept throwing at me titbits of a book he was reading. I must confess that the title of the book had put me off, in the first place. The title reminded me of the days of Galileo Galilei, the 17th century scientist excommunicated by the Catholic Church for claiming that the earth revolved around the sun, instead of vice versa.
The title of the book is ‘The World is Flat’. In it, the author examines the ‘flatteners’ that have contributed to changing the round world that we know, to make today’s world that is shared by everybody increasingly equally.
However, mine is not a review of the book. In any case, I have not finished reading it as it is a sizeable tome. I’ll only ‘throw to you titbits’ of the part that I have read so far. No one would disagree with the author that, for instance, as a symbol of the divide between the socialists and the capitalists, the fall of the Berlin wall marked the destruction of the barriers that divided the peoples and economies of the communist East and capitalist West.Most importantly, as the East German masses brought down the wall, so did the masses of the communist world in their countries rise together to dismantle the big round balls of monolithic hierarchies that had shut them from the freedom of the laisser-faire world. And yet, that can hardly be said to have had the levelling impact on the world that the introduction of the computer and its accompanying internet had in the 1990s.
To quote one of the author’s examples, imagine one businessman in USA signing a business contract with a South Korean counterpart, while none of them has left his office.
The American can see and talk to the Korean on a giant screen and so can the Korean his American counterpart.
Still, there is none to beat this one: an Indian teacher wakes up at four in the morning to give a Mathematics lesson to his American student at four in the afternoon, in USA! It is enough for both to pick their laptops and hook onto the internet and they’ll communicate verbally and visually in real-time. Most significantly, though, is the fact that a third world teacher is sourcing a first world job, with all the remunerational implications.
That whole news will come to us courtesy of the established, global media houses, right? Wrong, courtesy of ‘uploading’! Now any 12-year old can pick that news with his/her mobile phone and disseminate it on ‘YouTube’ or his/her own ‘blogpost’.
If you think this whole flattening rigmarole is alien to Rwanda, think back to 1990. A bunch of ‘cockroach’ bambinos set off for an audacious campaign that everybody took to be outright foolhardy, if not suicidal.By 1994, however, the monstrous mountain-ball of a regime architectured by blood-thirsty exclusionist and génocidaire vampires had crumbled and its rubble lay around the feet of these overnight heroes. From that rubble, RPF Inkotanyi proceeded to mould a community of Rwandans who now live in a flat nation where the rights of everyone are sacrosanct. Today, a Munyarwanda in the remotest part of the country can pick a cellular phone and place a call or send an SMS to President Paul Kagame and demand to know why there is no market for his/her harvest.
When all this digging-up in the ground is done with, a peasant in Bugarama will go to his local social hall and, on the social hall wall, a giant screen will give him a chance to quiz any official of government on why his land title deed has not yet been processed.
That is how flat Rwanda is becoming: two Rwandans in distant, opposite parts of the country talking to each other in real-time, facing each other life-size. Meaning of ‘real-time’? No sweat, everything is flat. It means receiving information at the same time as it is given, says ‘Wikipedia’, the free online encyclopaedia that has put its overbound, overpriced, hardcover cousin to shame. And that is how the latest invention by giant, American company, Google, comes in. Not only is it manufactured in partnership with a company of a small, third-world country, Taiwan, but also it can write e-mail messages by voice command. Imagine how further the world will have been flattened for our illiterate peasants, when time comes that these phones are offered free of charge. Currently, the going price is out of reach of the majority of Rwandans, but talk is that Google is being pressured into sponsoring its smart-phone through advertisement revenue.
Who would have guessed what Rwandan leadership was up to, when it opted for an ICT-enabled development policy, that long time ago?