Can ICT in Africa enrich and support traditional lifestyles and cultures? It certainly seems so, at least according to the entries already submitted to the 2013 eLearning Africa Photo Competition. Its theme, “Tradition and ICT Innovation: a couple with potential”, has drawn some inspiring work from budding photographers across the Continent, and will surely continue to attract more attention both in Africa and worldwide over the next few weeks. Anyone can take part – either by entering the competition or by voting for their favourite photo in the public choice category. The competition closes on Monday 3rd April – so to cast your vote or upload your entry in time for the deadline, follow the link and click either “vote” to view the gallery, or “submit” to send in your picture.
By Alasdair MacKinnon
The photographs entered so far tell stories about the positive social changes brought about by ICT in Africa, and about innovative practices that bridge the divide between traditional and modern, young and old. A quick glance through the photo gallery reveals traditional costumes, houses and farming practices, juxtaposed with tablets, smartphones and PCs; people of all ages and from all walks of life benefiting from internet and mobile connectivity. Technology is clearly playing an important role in diverse sectors of African society; not only in education, but in politics, agriculture, and in ordinary life.
It is unsurprising that the pictures we have received from Kenya are on political subjects. The Kenyan elections took place on the 4th of March, and campaigners have thought up some innovative ways of reaching the more remote or secluded sections of Kenya’s diverse population. We see a member of a Samburu tribe using a mobile phone; he is participating in the Interactive Voice Response campaign, which educated the nomadic tribes of the region about their rights and responsibilities as voters in the run-up to the election. Another photo shows a member of the Legio Maria movement, a religious sect whose practices oppose Western medicine and technology, talking politics with a friend on her mobile. People who might have had difficulty exercising their democratic rights are empowered through ICT.
It is in the farming sector that the benefits of mobile connectivity are most apparent this year. We have a vast number of pictures showing the penetration of mobile phone and tablet technology in agriculture, and the innovations in usage that go along with it. Singisi coffee farmers in Tanzania, for example, are given instant market quotes by iPad, so that they can sell at the right prices on an interactive system that also caters for the illiterate. A smallholder in eastern Uganda is provided with information on pests and diseases by mobile – information which could have been difficult to access without ICT is made instantly available. Solar panels allow the spread of technology into rural areas where farming can benefit from it, but where the lack of an electricity grid connection previously prevented its use.
Some of the best photos submitted simply tell great stories from everyday life, in which both the contrasting and harmonious aspects of tradition and ICT innovation are addressed and represented. The photographers who have entered are vying for the three jury prizes – a tablet for 1st place, a digital camera for 2nd and an mp3 player for 3rd – and the prize of a digital camera for the winner of the public vote. The ten best photos will also be exhibited at eLearning Africa 2013, which will take place in Windhoek, Namibia from 29th – 31st May . To take part in the competition, vote, or view the entries so far, visit the eLearning Africa Photo Competition webpage, http://www.elearning-africa.com/photo_competition_home.php.