Here’s a piece I did for Reuters on the state of IT in Myanmar. The Economist pipped us to the post slightly, but always nice to know other people are thinking along the same lines. Myanmar has fewer phones per capita than any other country and probably the fewest Internet connections, and that has regional telecoms and IT companies licking their lips.But behind those statistics lies more than simply a virgin market waiting to be tapped. Myanmar has been run by generals for decades, leaving not only pent-up demand for connectivity, but also a complex web of interests and a unique ecosystem of technological make-do.
By Jeremy Wagstaff (this is a longer version of an upcoming syndicated column.) When people look back at the last decade for a technology zeitgeist they may choose SMS, or the iPod, or maybe even Facebook. Me? I’d choose the cellphone call that rings, briefly, and then is silent. It’s one of those social phenomena that has so embedded itself in the culture that we don’t even notice it. It developed its own syntax, its own meaning, and even shifted the boundaries of cultural mores and social intercourse. Even I didn’t realise it was so widespread until I started researching this article. And yet, at
By Jeremy Wagstaff There’s something I notice amid all the dust, drudgery and danger of Kabul life: the cellphone TVs. No guard booth—and there are lots of them—is complete without a little cellphone sitting on its side, pumping out some surprisingly clear picture of a TV show. This evening at one hostelry the guard, AK-47 absent-mindedly askew on the bench, had plugged his into a TV. I don’t know why. Maybe the phone gave better reception. All I know is that guys who a couple of years ago had no means of communication now have a computer in their hand. Not only that, it’s a
Illustration IHT, by Felipe Galindo I wrote a piece for the IHT on a company of expats bringing wireless broadband to their native Bangladesh. Would love to have gone there to have a look, but budgets aren’t what they were (love the illustration): In Bangladesh, where less than 1 percent of the population has Internet access and where the rare broadband connection is prohibitively expensive, bridging the digital divide may require new approaches. A group of Bangladeshi expatriates think they have found one that could work – a plan to bring affordable Internet access to their homeland through a blend of high-end wireless technology
A lot of my time is spent writing for and talking to people for whom the computer remains a scary beast that is best kept at arm’s length, or, better, in a closet. I feel for these people because I’m not naturally a techie myself. I failed science and math in school and almost certainly would again if I retook those exams. (I blame the science teacher, an evil vicar who tormented me, but that’s another story.) But perhaps these technophobes have a point? Perhaps computers and the Internet haven’t really done us any favors? Firstly, the stats. Has the computer/Internet boom made us more
Two pieces in the NYT/IHT that weren’t about technology, but kind of are, illustrate how technology can shrink distance but also grow it. First off a piece by Geoff D. Porter, an analyst in the Middle East and Africa division of the Eurasia Group, explores how African would-be immigrants to Europe are now making their way to Europe via the Canary Islands, some 50 miles off the coast of Mauritania. Until technology came along, this was a very risky business: The Atlantic is big, and the Canaries are small, making it hard for sailors in small fishing boats to find them. Still, chasing fish stocks