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Technology will mortgage Kenya’s soul

Updated Monday, February 20th 2012 at 00:00 GMT +3
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By OYUNGA PALA

Recently, I came upon a development report that blandly claimed the "African’s lack of modernity was his inability to adapt to modern practices". What rubbish.

The poor aid worker assigned to the task probably googled the text and then copied and pasted bits. He was also too busy partying in Nairobi and getting ‘massaged’ in Kileleshwa to fact check.

Truth is in most urban and rural communities in Kenya, one finds folks engaged in all manner of tactile manipulation with their mobile phones. Most can no longer stand still without fiddling or fidgeting in anticipation.

Addiction

These rather pronounced twitches point to addiction to modern gadgets. Clearly, we are more modern than that development would ever imagine. The mobile is now like an appendage we voluntarily and happily use for bleeping our GPS coordinates (uko wapi?).

I have watched folks go hysterical when there is ‘no signal’. In Kenya speak, ‘no signal’ could mean anything — from, yes! I have a phone but my battery was not charged, I had no credit, I didn’t want to talk to you, there really was no signal or, sorry! I was in shagz. No signal!

Unfortunately, the shagz excuses do not work anymore. I know folks in the village who specialise in spare batteries and will even deliver a new sim card — all by boda boda. If there is a footpath, they will get to you.

I have watched many a young person in ill-fitting clothing pretend to be in full conversation with themselves. When a phone rings, I have watched slumbering folk in the park pounce and become suddenly agile, talking big money and how grand it is at the Acacia.

That is why I pray that no strange disease associated to phones ever emerges. This technology is too new to wipe us out.

Walking sticks

It’s frightening because all these years we are yet to learn that petroleum tankers explode.

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