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  • Ildiko Almasi Simsic

Voice messages help illiterate farmers in Senegal

I have been fascinated by the technology that is available today to connect us. It has been especially inspiring to see the technological advancements in the context of social development. Over the past few decades, Africa, for instance, has witnessed a remarkable technological leap that defied traditional trajectories. One of the most notable leaps occurred in the telecommunications sector, where the continent catapulted from radio technology to mobile phones, effectively skipping intermediate technologies prevalent in the developed world. This monumental shift was driven by various factors, including limited existing infrastructure, innovative solutions, and the unprecedented demand for communication and connectivity across the vast African landscape.

In the early 1990s, radio broadcasting was the primary means of mass communication in many parts of Africa. However, with limited reach and interactivity, it struggled to meet the growing demand for real-time communication and connectivity. Seizing the opportunity to bridge this gap, visionary entrepreneurs and forward-thinking governments recognized the transformative potential of mobile technology. By investing in the establishment of mobile networks, Africa could leapfrog the necessity of building extensive landline infrastructure, an advantage not afforded to many developed nations that were bound by existing systems.

The introduction of mobile phones in Africa ushered in a revolutionary era of instant communication and accessibility to information, transforming lives and economies across the continent. By skipping traditional landline networks, Africa demonstrated unparalleled adaptability and innovation, utilizing technology in ways that met the unique needs and challenges of the continent. Today, mobile phones have become ubiquitous, enabling financial services, health information dissemination, and connecting remote communities like never before. This technological leap was further accelerated by the innate resourcefulness and ingenuity of the people in utilizing technology. Faced with challenges unique to the continent, Africans harnessed mobile technology in innovative ways, efficiently solving existing problems and connecting communities like never before. Entertainment emerged as a prominent aspect of this new technological landscape, but it was soon applied to finance, business, other industries and development work.

The article – linked below – explores the way agricultural workers in Senegal utilize WhatsApp voice messages to compensate for their inability to read and write. This method of communication has proven to be exceedingly effective for the distribution of essential knowledge and vital agricultural experiences. By maintaining connectivity via group chats, these farmers have access to a wealth of information from various regions of the country. This embracement of modern technology has catapulted them into a future where the fast that they are illiterate doesn't stop them from accessing information. The incorporation of visuals, photos and videos provide immediate answers to questions they have about production. There is no need to wait for the information or spend time researching the issue. Does this mean that they will never learn to read or write? Probably not. It only gives them time to do so while still being productive farmers. Definitely worth a read.


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