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Monday, August 25, 2008

Economies, life spans and technology usage

A very business like day today, except it was in South Africa around dining room tables at a bed and breakfast. We invited two experts living in South Africa to speak with us about demographics and media habits in South Africa. This morning we heard from Raymond De Villieres from WisdomGames. His current venture is a game company that's expertise is on games for corporations interested in culling the wisdom of their experienced employees and leaders and using the game environment to teach less experienced personnel.
Raymond spoke with us on race, gender and economy. Most interesting was the knowledge that there are two economies in South Africa: 1st and 2nd. In the second economy, primarily found in the black population living primarily in the townships, there is roughly 56% unemployment and one is well off if monthly income equals 1000 rand a month—currently equivalent to $560.25 American. In this economy, internet usage is secondary to mobile communications—more available and cheaper. Brian George stated that the cost of a cell phone to teens in South African townships is equal to the cost of computing technology to US teens.
Our afternoon meeting was with Tino Kreutzer, a consultant on new media in developing countries to include the UN. He currently is a master student at the University of Cape Town studying qualitative and quantitative mobile patterns among South African township use. Surprisingly, though young people in the townships do not use computers for communication or information, their cellphone technology surpasses that of the United States even including they often have hand-me down devices.
Tino stated they may be hand me downs from older siblings and relatives. Parents are less common in their culture because the average life span is around 40 years old (unlike in the 1st economy where the average life span extends into he late 70's. Early death rates are due to three factors: AIDS, tuberculous, and malaria.) That means a 20 year old has completed half of their life! Raymond earlier pointed out that often the phones come from employers handing down the phones to household staff.
The young people use the cell phones much like young people in American culture use computers. They communicate, play games, conduct business and have work arounds to avoid payments such as calling but not picking up in sequences like Morse code.
Today's discussion are preparing us for the remainder of the week. At the end of the day Scott Connolly and Megan Frenzen led the group in techniques for conducting focus group interviews. We will be practicing techniques before doing interviews in two schools on Thursday. Tomorrow we will be visiting with students at the University of Cape Town and at an after school program in a different township.


Mary Lynne Isham and Steve Adams said...

We can hear your voices in your writings, and we are so happy for you and the gifts you're being given! Bring back everything possible and some things impossible, too, from your experience - and we believe you'll find ways to make them possible.

Mary Lynne & Steve

shari olmstead said...

It's wonderful to read Ann's descriptions of what you are all doing, and experiencing across the world from us. A culture that at the same time has similarities and drastic differences to ours. It must seem surreal to be experiencing it all in person!
You are a generation that will stretch “gaming” across prior definitions, boundaries, cultures and ages.
It will be so exciting to see what develops when you put it all together and create your vision!

Steve Mease said...

I'mvery impressed with your photos and the stories you are sharing on the blog. I can't wait for you to get back so I start working on getting your work the media coverage it deserves.
Steve Mease
News and Public Information Director at Champlain College