African countries are trying to “cheat history,” as one senior UN official I met put it. Barely literate people in the poorest villages, places where there are no schools and the life expectancy is under 50 due to lack of health infrastructure, use mobile phones to listen to the radio, send money, buy and sell stuff, and even to study. When we flash polled a roomful of eighty nursing students in rural Sierra Leone, everyone’s hand went up when we asked who owned a phone and had heard of social networking. Their lives are a mashup: Facebook Zero meets the Middle Ages.
– Leila Chirayath Janah
The Women’s Technology Delegation, set up by the US State Department, travels through Liberia and Sierra Leone.