ICT builds bridges

The morning’s catch of fish has been heaped up to roast on a griddle over an open fire.  Smoke rises, filling the hut. Daniel, a member of the Ago-Egun fishing community in Ajeromi Ifelodun, Lagos, gets out his phone and starts making calls: he needs to tell his many customers that the fish are nearly done.

In a business like fishing communication is vital. The relatively short shelf-life of the raw product necessitates just-in-time delivery, while prices and stocks fluctuate according to season and demand. So it’s no wonder that Daniel is reliant on mobile connectivity. The Nigerian capital, spread out over several islands in the river, is connected by a network of physical bridges: Daniel is using ICTs to build bridges of his own.

This is the photo-story submitted by Nigerian poet and photographer Uche Uwadinachi to the eLearning Africa Photo Competition 2014, under the theme of “Building Bridges through ICT”. Whether showing a teacher getting online in rural Mali, or a doctor connecting to receive training in Uganda, the range of submissions so far demonstrates the ubiquity of ICTs in Africa today, and the vast numbers of ways people are putting them to use to connect, communicate and learn.

In Ray Piwi’s photograph for example, entitled simply “Information”, we see a crowd of South Africans assembling in the street, their eyes directed intently towards something that is going on behind the cameraman. Most of the front row has got out their camera-phones to capture the event, whatever it is; for it is not this actual happening that interests the photographer, but rather the act of collective participation that ICT allows through the instant transfer of information. Only one person seems to notice Piwi’s camera: a youth in a high-vis jacket in the foreground, staring nonchalantly straight into the lens, underlining further the sense of two-way communication between photographer and subject.

Young people, as in previous years, are strongly represented in the submissions – from South African teenagers reading MobiStories right down to a two-year-old tapping away at a smartphone. In one of the most touching, “Catch them young” by Wallace Mawiri, a young Zimbabwean girl, Nakai, stands on the dry soil of a maize field. She is dwarfed by the size of the crops growing all around her. Looking hopefully up at the sky, she holds a mobile to her ear – receiving the latest news about the coming rains.

Whether in health or agriculture, work or everyday life, the photographs submitted so far demonstrate how ICTs have become a very important part of the way people interact with their world. They show Africans using new communicative technologies not only to receive information and learn, but also to share knowledge with others.

The eLearning Africa Photo Competition is open for submissions until the end of April. To view the entries so far, vote for your favourite or enter a photograph of your own, visit the competition’s Facebook page.

The winners of the competition will receive:

1st prize: a tablet computer
2nd prize: a digital camera
3rd prize: an MP3 player
Public vote winner: a digital camera

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