It’s all in the palm of your hand. Or is it really? Many tech experts and forecasters see the smartphone as being the technology tool that will connect rural America, and perhaps the rest of the world to the Internet. For example, eighty-five percent of the Choctaw Nation in rural Oklahoma stay connected by using them. Similarly, many rural citizens in India rely on this mobile service for enhancing their children’s education and their own communications with family and friends. Half-way around the world from each other yet relying on these small digital devices as their best resources for knowing more about the larger world. Is it really that simple?
I am always amazed at the amount of “palm-gazing” I see everywhere I go now (not as widely traveled as I used to be, but I still think far enough to give me a good sample size). I first noticed this phenomenon in the summer of 2008 when I returned to a part of India where I had served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the mid-sixties. Mobile phones were quickly being adopted as a preferred means of connecting with others. There were clearly technical limitations to their use in the most rural areas of India, but I think most users were learning how they could become more active participants in the Information Age. Their formal educational system was simply becoming less relevant in the dawn of the twenty-first century.
But is something being lost as we gain something new. Are our mobile devices our new “best friends.” They will always be with us, and really don’t demand too much from us. Maybe they are really outsmarting us, if we let them?