Technology in a Time Warp

17th February 2019

The Gambia has a bizarre and really fascinating mix of old-fashioned practices and modern technology in its day to day life.

So we were stunned by cutting edge customer service like banks producing ATM cards with all your personal details within ten minutes of you applying for one and routers that you can buy over the counter from any service provider that fit snugly into the palm of your hand or a woman’s small purse.

Router on exercise book next to my glasses to give a sense of proportion
Up Close & Personal: The Pocket Sized Gamcell Router

On the other hand, most shops and supermarkets here do not accept debit or credit cards so you have to pay for most things with hard cash and are therefore forced to walk around with bulky wads of 100 or 200 dalasi notes since denominations greater than that do not exist!

Also you are compelled to wait until your internet package completely runs out before you can pay the next monthly instalment which means that even though the service provider is open 24/7 (they have to be – with a daft regulation like that!) – if you can’t make it to the service provider on the exact date that your internet finishes, then you have to do without wifi until you can find a convenient time to drop by their office and pay for the package. How archaic!

However, you do have the immense convenience of paying for your TV connection by dialling up a number on your phone – so the minute your television stops working at home, you merely punch the required numbers on it and put in credit from your phone’s mobile data – and voila! Your TV is back on again – how cool is that?!It’s really, really cheap too.

It is incredible to see the strange and wondrous ways in which this tiniest of countries in this huge continent of Africa has been transformed from what it was just twenty years ago: no more than a cluster of small fishing villages on the Atlantic coast – into a modern nation and a fully fledged democracy adopting new technological innovations with dizzying speed! The Gambia has broken through the straitjacket of its age-old tribal traditions and oppressive colonial past to claw its way into the twenty first century with tremendous energy and determination.

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