One of the problems with writing about developing-world technology is that all too often the sexy tech is useless, and the useful tech is deeply unsexy. Innovations that actually change lives in a profound and meaningful way are frequently grimy, clumsy, noisy and ugly. Like this donkey:
That’s not quite a non sequitur. What you have in this photo (taken a four-hour walk from the nearest road in the foothills of Colombia’s Sierra Nevada mountains) are two eras of technology, side by side: animal power, and in the hut behind it, hydro power.
Hill country is rough country. Think Appalachian hillbillies, Bosnian ethnic cleansing, Bolivian coups, Nepali Maoists, Papua New Guinea blood vendettas, Colombian paramilitary strongholds, the Rwandan genocide, Osama Bin Laden’s hideout: all lands of steep, barely accessible hills and valleys, bloody tribalism and abject poverty. (I’ll concede Switzerland as the exception that proves the rule.) (more…)