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By 12 February 2014 | Categories: news

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I have no idea why the First World is called the First World, or the Third World is called the Third World. And I am particularly confused as to why the Second World doesn’t seem to even exist at all. I will Google it, but only once this column is finished, as I have already procrastinated for three days straight, going way beyond my prescribed procrastination limit, which is two days straight. I have already wasted much of my first paragraph avoiding getting to the point, which is that I am writing this from South East Asia – in the Third World.

While we are used to our home of South Africa being described as the Third World, the truth is that most of those who read this publication manage to live their lives in small First World enclaves, sometimes literally cordoned off by boom gates. Living in Johannesburg, Cape Town, Pretoria or even, I reluctantly have to admit Durban, it is possible to pretend, if you live in the right golf estate, that you live in a world so First it’s almost as if colonisation is still in progress.

In development

A more politically correct way to refer to Third World countries these days is the term ‘developing nation’. The places I have been to in South East Asia, Thailand, Cambodia and Laos, are definitely developing, albeit at speeds ranging from slowly to very slowly to even more slowly than that. Yet everywhere you go, there is plenty of fresh fruit and a very reliable supply of free wi-fi.

Yes, free wi-fi. For some reason, despite more privileged South Africans having full Third World immunity, free wi-fi is a luxury found only in hipster coffee shops, and even then, only if you’re prepared to keep drinking coffee until you get heart palpitations. Anywhere else, if one picks up wi-fi, a surge of initial excitement comes to an abrupt halt when one is met with the dreaded home page of Always On.

It seems by making you pay for wi-fi, companies like Always On are just maintaining the South African tradition of charging people fees that exist nowhere else in the world, like the ones we pay for drawing money from an ATM and for getting the uncapped broadband that many other countries consider standard. If we told the village people of Laos that in South Africa we have to pay for wi-fi they would laugh so hard they’d fall out of their grass huts.

Not asking for much

It’s time for all South Africans to demand that we cast aside the chains of Third World bondage and develop to our full potential. It’s not like my demands are excessive. All I want is an end to unemployment, affordable and functioning health care and education, running water, electricity and, of course, free wi-fi for all South Africans. Until we have all these things, the struggle continues.

Photo courtesy of GA Goodman
Article first appearead in TechSmart Jan 2014

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