I love these pictures:
I link-blogged that article ages ago, but I keep thinking of it, so it’s worth a proper post in its own right, to expand on that.
These guys work at an Indian mobile phone repair stall in Karol Bagh Market, in Delhi. The blog entry notes:
As in China, many of the mobile phone shops and street kiosks offer mobile phone repair service. Many of these guys can strip and rebuild a mobile phone in minutes. … a lot of the hyperbole surrounding western hacker culture makes me smile compared to what these guys are doing day in day out.
Also, a commenter notes: ‘in india, for about 1$, you can convert a CDMA phone to GSM !! also, they can unlock phones and do a veriety of hacks for little money.’
There’s so many lessons I’m getting from it:
I’ve had a shoe resoled in 5 minutes for next to nothing at a stall not too different from that — but this is a mobile phone. It’s amazing to think of that level of hardware hacking taking place every day at a back-street market stall.
Those phones were doubtless planned, as a product, with a ‘ship back to manufacturer’ support plan. That clearly isn’t going to fly without that developed-world luxury, Fedex. So this is the developing-world street finding its own uses for things, and working around the dependencies on systems that are optimised for the developed world.
It’s the flip-side of Joshua Ellis’ grim meathook future, where we’re not facing down the barrel of a New-Orleans-style descent into barbarity if the power suddenly cuts out; tech can go on. It may be a little chunkier, though, and with more duct tape, but hey.
It’s also a beautiful demonstration of how those of us in the developed world who assume that developing-worlders cannot find a use for high tech, are talking shit. (cf. Ethan Zuckerman as a good example of someone who gets this, more than almost anyone else I can think of.)
I think this is one of the most important lessons I learned while travelling through India and SE Asia a few years back — the developing world is using high tech, and it’s not using it in the same ways we do — or even the ways we anticipated, and we have plenty to learn from them too.
(PS: I have a wisdom tooth extraction scheduled for next Friday… wish me luck. That’s another thing you don’t want to happen in the developing world, although I daresay it’d rock in Bangkok!)
(Update: clarification — my cite of Ethan Z was meant as a compliment ;)