From the way we communicate to the tools we use to do it, technology is engrained as a basic component of interpersonal interaction in Western society. It’s come to be so fast-paced that nothing is ever new for very long, and upgrading for the latest ephemeral gadgets comes as naturally to us as changing our underwear.
For almost a week now, my landline has been disconnected, thanks to workers from Bell who accidentally cut us off while doing seasonal maintenance. My initial feeling wasn’t panic though, but rather annoyance. It meant I would have to contact anyone who’d normally reach me at home to tell them to call my cell instead. But then it dawned on me - no one has ever tried to reach me on my home phone since circa 2005.
More and more, people have been ridding themselves of home phone lines altogether, especially younger generations that are starting to live on their own. In an age where practically everyone has a personal cell phone, what’s the use of a landline? Cell phone companies are encouraging the trend by offering great deals with Internet packages so that people will never have to use home phones again.
To Westerners, this shift in the importance of cell phones simply represents another phase in our rapidly evolving technological era. But in other less developed areas of the world, cell phones are much more than a slight novelty – they are key in providing interpersonal information exchanges that have been quite simply impossible thus far. In Africa for example, they are completely revolutionizing traditional lifestyles. From having scarce communication resources to a widespread surge in cell phone usage, there now exists in Africa the fastest growing cell phone market worldwide, developing exponentially each year. Africans living in villages that don’t yet have electricity or drinkable water own cell phones.
This technology we’ve come to take for granted is now opening a whole new world of opportunity to those discovering it for the first time. Food for thought when considering just how powerful a tool the cellular phone has become.