Steve Ember with EXPLORATIONS in VOA Special English. Today we tell about how technology is improving the lives of
people in developing countries.
Musa Kayairanga of Rwanda is a traditional healer. He uses natural medicines to treat his
patients. He learned how to use
computers at a rural telecommunications center in his country. Musa Kayairanga says he exchanges
information with doctors as far away as Canada. He also says the computer has improved his knowledge of using
plants to treat diseases.
Many people in rural areas are now able to communicate
with the rest of the world. This is one
example of how technology is changing life in developing countries.
Andrew Burns is an economist at the World Bank in
Washington, D.C. He led a recent study
of technology in developing countries.
The study found that technology has spread faster in such countries than
in rich nations. It also found that
technological progress has helped raise wages in developing countries. And it reduced the percentage of people
living in extreme poverty from twenty-nine percent in nineteen ninety to
eighteen percent in two thousand four.
Progress in communications technology has aided the
growth of call centers in developing countries. Call centers are offices where most telephone calls for a
business can be answered. For example,
a woman in the United States who calls her computer company about a problem
might speak with someone in India or Pakistan.
Call centers serve businesses in local and international
markets. And they have added to
economic growth by providing well-paid jobs and new skills for workers who
might not have had such employment.
Ahsan Saeed is a young call center worker in Karachi,
Pakistan. He says the job improves his
language skills, his sales skills and his ability to deal with people.
Experts say the wireless telephone has changed lives and
businesses more than any other device.
Eighty percent of the world's population now lives in an area covered by
at least one cell phone network. Arthur
Molella heads the Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation at
America's Smithsonian Institution. He
says cell phones are having many effects.
One effect is increasing communications from countries with strong
For example, when governments repress their opponents,
the world knows about it almost immediately because of cell phone pictures and
videos placed on the Internet. This has
helped increase international pressure against such governments.
Yet experts say the spread of technology in the
developing world will not necessarily produce the same kind of progress or
wealth as in rich nations. Arthur
Molella says technology is being used in different ways in developing
Cell phones are an example of what is sometimes called
"leapfrog" technology. This
is a kind of technology that is not based on earlier technology. For example, many people in developing
countries have gone from no telephones to wireless communications.
Cell phones permit developing countries to have a good
communications system without the heavy investment of fixed-line telephone
In Afghanistan, Abdul Wakil owns a store in a village
about forty kilometers north of the capital, Kabul. He says his cell phone has been important for his business. In the past, he had to go to Kabul to order
products. Now he can do that with a phone
The International Telecommunication Union says cell phone
signals are able to reach seventy-two percent of Afghanistan's population. By comparison, fewer than one percent of the
population has a fixed telephone line.
Cell phone use worldwide has increased as more countries
have opened their state-owned telephone systems to let private companies build
cellular networks. By the end of two
thousand six, sixty-eight percent of the world's cell phone users were in
Andrew Burns of the World Bank says one reason for the
spread of cell phones is ease of use.
He says a person does not have to be able to read or know mathematics to
use such devices.
Using a cell phone gives a person more power. For example, using cell phones for financial
activities is becoming popular in countries where many people do not keep their
money in banks.
In Kenya, a low cost cell phone service called M-Pesa
lets people send and receive money by using text messages. The service is popular because people do not
have to travel long distances to make payments or receive money.
Cell phones are also proving to be an important tool in
health care. They are helping to halt the spread of diseases such as AIDS. In Rwanda, health care workers in rural
medical centers use cell phones that have a special software program. An American company, Voxiva, developed the
program. The software lets health care
workers enter information about medicines and patients in cell phones. Then they can send this information by text
messages to health officials in Rwanda's capital. With this information, the workers can better supervise the
spread of AIDS and send resources to medical centers to treat the disease.
technology is also important in developing countries. Low-tech inventions can help people improve their quality of
life. Two examples are water-cleaning
devices and stoves that use a small amount of fuel. This is called "appropriate technology." It usually requires fewer resources than
high technology. It also is less costly
and easier to operate. And it does not
harm the environment.
Simbizi is a soldier in Burundi. He
cooks his meal at an army base in Bujumbura.
His stove uses the plant material peat instead of wood for fuel. However, he says the stove produces a lot of
smoke. Burundi's government wants
people to use peat instead of traditional fuels. Peat is easy to get and its use can save trees from being cut
army is the main user of peat stoves.
But the country plans to sell peat stoves to civilians, too.
Cambodia, about one hundred thousand homes have ceramic water purifiers. These devices remove microorganisms and
other substances, making water safe to drink.
The American non-profit group International Development Enterprises has
supported the use of the low-tech purifiers.
like Lach Emmaly are very satisfied. She says she finds the device useful because she does not have to
search for firewood to make a fire to heat water. She says the water purifier saves her time and money, and keeps
high-technology products, like computers, can be changed to fit local
conditions. One example is the One
Laptop Per Child project. An American
non-profit group with the same name started the project. The laptop computers are light in
weight. They can use energy from the
sun or can be hand-powered. Children
and their teachers are able to use computer software that meets their needs.
Negroponte is the chairman of the One Laptop Per Child Foundation. He says the special laptop is an example of
appropriate technology. He says it uses
only one twentieth of the power of laptops used in the United States.
technology is also helping farmers.
Years ago, farmers in India's Uttar Pradesh state sold their wheat to local
dealers at whatever price was offered.
Now, thanks to the Internet, they can get higher prices for their
Pradesh and other states, farmers can go to a center with Internet
connections. They are able to use a
system, known as e-Choupal, set up by the Indian Tobacco Company. They can get price information and sell
their crops on the Internet. They can
also get information about the weather so they will know the right time to use
chemicals to kill insects. More than
six thousand Indian villages are connected to the e-Choupal network. This is another example of how technology is
changing the lives of people in developing countries.
program was written by Shelley Gollust.
Our producer was Mario Ritter.
I'm Barbara Klein.
Steve Ember. You can read scripts and
download audio at our Web site, voaspecialenglish.com. Join us again next week for EXPLORATIONS in
VOA Special English.