One of my long-time fascinations has been to explore Africa and its tribes. I love examining all forms, and expressions of human life. Tribes provide one clear and transparent way on what is really needed in life in order to survive as a human.
From Addis Ababa, it took me two days of travel on local buses to arrive at Turmi. Turmi is a village is the home of the Hamer tribes in the Omo Valley region of Ethiopia, also is home to approximately a thousand people. Water is carried out through town by donkeys, streets are dark at night, and the power grid comes and goes. To my surprise, the 3G connection was fast in this village, and you could access the internet with a smartphone.
Shello, a Hamer tribe member, and one of the smartest kids I met in Africa guided me around. I discovered that the Hamer people don’t know their birthday, don’t have running water or electricity, no vehicles, no furniture, no shoes, no TV, and no clothes in some instances. Basically, the make no use of most goods, or services a lot of people find valuable or useful. They use goat skin as garments and beds. Their tools are made of natural materials like drinking cups. Goat herding and basic agriculture is their form of survival.
One of the things that shocked me the most was to see a solar panel sticking of a hut. This panel is used to charge mobile phones. The device is shared within the Hamer community. They have approximately two phones for every 100 people. And is utilized for basic communication needs, like notifying others that a family member is sick or any other transactional issue. The tribes can’t afford a smartphone, which cost around $40 for the cheapest version.
Visiting the tribes really change my perspective. I discovered that the mobile phone is one of those few modern inventions that trickled down to these remote areas. It’s incredible! This piece of technology has the potential to really transform the world at large. But my big question is. How the expansion of mobile technology will affect these tribes? Do they really need smartphones and their culture endangered by mobile tech? What kinds of applications would they need? What are the negative side effects? Should a program get started to invest in these communities? Would SolarCity care about investing in the region?
I met with a local Hamer tribe leader named Kala, and he told me that the tribes could benefit by having more phones, as it brings wider communication, and interconnectivity, saving time and resources as a consequence. But more communication will also bring negative side effects.
Maybe some mobile applications will certainly help them have better, agricultural yields and sales. it could provide further access to clean water, health and increase their standard of living. WeFarm is an interesting solution for farmers over SMS. in Africa 60% of the population lives in rural areas. This is 694,636,991 people..
Something is clear to me, though. In the west, and many parts of the world now. We live in a delusion that we need all these goods, and efficient services to have a happy and meaningful life. In a way, mobile tech and social media are amplifying this effect. We do need basic tools for subsistence. No doubt, but is way below to what most people think. In fact, I discovered that less is better.
I am grateful to meet the Hamer tribes, and I feel responsible for telling the world. Don’t be fooled by modern inventions and mass media, most of it is just a distraction. Be really aware of what you use and how you use it. The answer might be not using it. And maybe the Hamer tribes can benefit by using some advanced tech.