Archive: June, 2009
Though the area surrounding Arusha is largely electrified, many can’t afford the electricity or access the power lines. A new trend in the area is household-level solar panels, which can be purchased in Arusha for about 500,000 TSH/500 USD, though they are coming down in price. Installation costs another 500,000 TSH/500 USD, making solar panels a huge investment for rural households. But for some, it is worth it to save up over a period of time to make this purchase. It powers about 6-7 light bulbs (about 500 TSH/0.50 USD each), which can be life-changing for a family that has never been productive after dark. Solar water heaters are also available, though they are considered more of a luxury (I respectfully disagree).
Living on the grid presents its own set of challenges. Power is expensive (even more so than in the US) and can be unreliable. I talked to a man who lives in Arusha who said he pays about 220 TSH/0.22 USD per watt. He has a landline, which cost about 95,000 TSH/95 USD to install, as well as a desktop, television, radio, and small refrigerator. He washes his clothes by hand.
I’m on safari in Tanzania for the week with my dad, aunt, and cousin. I’ve been driving around near Arusha a bit. Some initial observations:
Bikes are a primary mode of transportation and often carry heavy loads. Unfortunately, they become less useful on inclined roads.
I am about to leave for a summer in Africa, so now is a pretty good time to start a blog. I will be staying mainly in Western Kenya, with excursions around Kenya, Tanzania, and Ghana. The purpose of my trip is twofold: first, to investigate the wide spectrum of technology in use in the region and how it is developed, and second, to help Clarice Odhiambo, former Head of Engineering for Coca-Cola Africa, start the Africa Center for Engineering Social Solutions.
Analogue/Digital will catalog my findings on the convergence of technology and culture in Africa. In many parts of Africa, people have rapidly adapted to digital culture within the last few years, but also adapted new technologies to people’s needs in ways we have never seen and probably could never have imagined. In Nairobi, you can get just about anything fabricated, repaired, or charged by informal businesses that have risen to fill gaps left by the limited formal sector. Some of the businesses are started by engineering graduates who would otherwise have no work.
Kenya has skipped the wired evolution and experienced a wireless revolution. Everyone and their moms has a mobile phone and many do their banking or make financial transactions via SMS, which has opened up vast opportunities using limited platforms. The results of these technological and cultural advancements are only first being measured, but the country has visibly changed socially, with communication now made effortless, and economically, with businesses and farmers able to access information much more easily.
This is my first trip to Africa and it will be exciting.
Making Do is an investigation into systems of innovation in Kenya's informal economy. Learn more and read the book online or in print here.
I'm Steve Daniels. I study the transformative impact of technology on individuals and societies. I am the founder of the Better World by Design conference at Brown University and the Rhode Island School of Design and Analogue Digital, a publisher of content related to global cultures of technology. Currently, I work at IBM Research, where I study mobile social computing in emerging markets.
I am particularly interested in how people create, adapt, and use technology in resource-constrained environments, which I have written about in Making Do: Innovation in Kenya's Informal Economy.
- Emerging Futures Lab
- Future Perfect
- Information Aesthetics
- Maker Faire Africa
- Smarter Planet
- Timbuktu Chronicles
- White African