Marvels of Modern Technology

I have never considered myself a technologically savvy person.  Checking email on my phone was about as exciting as I got. Any questions requiring additional understanding of the way technology worked were deferred to my infinitely more knowledgeable computer science major friends.

But, having been gone for close to four months now, I’m beginning to sing the praises of modern technology. Email and Facebook have helped me keep in touch with family and friends at home. I’ve been able to contact professors with things that I’ve encountered that I’ve had questions about. Skype has given me the wonderful gift of seeing my mom, dad and brother every weekend I’ve been in Peru. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve loved traveling and exploring and seeing new places. But, it sure is nice to see a familiar (albeit slightly pixilated) face and hear a familiar voice. And, technology isn’t just for the selective few anymore. On the bus ride this morning, I saw a woman, dressed in traditional Quechua attire, chatting on her cell phone. (How she was able to hear over the din of an overcrowded bus, the two boxes of live chickens at the front, and the yells of which stops were coming up, I’m not sure, but hey she was still talking on a cell phone!) In some of the poorest neighborhoods I saw in Tanzania, there were internet cafes, where for a few shillings, you could spend an hour googling to your heart’s content.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think that just because a few people have cell phones the countries I’m visiting are rapidly developing. For every person I see texting away, there are likely ten or more families without electricity in their homes, let alone a computer or phone. The important thing to me though, is that slowly but surely technology is making its way here. And that progress, slow as it may be, means that more and more information is becoming readily available to people from all walks of life. Sure, you have to take what’s put on the internet with a grain of salt, but it still represents a chance to learn about the world outside your city block.

To me, there is tremendous power in that possibility. So many of the kids I’ve worked with over the last month and a half have no idea about the world outside their village in Peru. They don’t realize that there are other kinds of food or ways to dress or languages to speak. In my opinion, that lack of knowledge makes them more vulnerable to abuse.  How could you know that being physically or sexually abused is not acceptable, if your neighbors live in abusive relationships, as do most of the members of your extended family?  I’m certainly not saying that giving these kids internet access would eradicate sexual abuse in Huánuco, Peru. I’m simply suggesting that access to information is a powerful thing.

And, it’s not just the developing world that has something to gain from access to technology. Americans have a lot to learn as well. We have a responsibility to know what’s going on outside our borders. We need to know how other people live, what they believe and why they think the way they do. That doesn’t mean we have to change a fundamental belief we have, it just means we need to be aware that not everyone lives the way they do. And, the more we know about other people (and what influences how they think) the better we’ll be able to work with others.

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