We spent 2.5 months offline at home awaiting Internet access. The situation was manageable because we had workarounds such as Internet access at work and Internet cafes. Still, we were quite inconvenienced juggling our to-do list at home and accessing the Internet at alternative locations. I began wondering how my predecessors who lived in places like Africa and South America managed their personal lives without the Internet. Certainly the early explorers would have no need for the Internet because their lives were, well, simpler. They didn’t have health and auto insurance, bank accounts, 401(k)’s and investment accounts and nonsuch to worry about. But those who lived and worked overseas as recently as the mid-1990’s experienced virtually the same reality we do now. A relative of mne who worked overseas decades ago once told me that she used the JCPenney’s catalog to order items in lieu of Amazon.com, and she taped her voice and sent the cassettes home to her family so that they could hear her voice. She at least had the convenience of telephony, but the cost was prohibitively expensive, and sending tapes was a more affordable option.
When I think about the technology my predecessors had at their disposal, I consider myself grateful to have Internet access at home now so that I can check our accounts, order products online to be shipped to us overseas, and post a blog entry on an odd evening. Thank God for DARPA, Tim Berners-Lee, and other visionaries that had the vision to develop what many of us now take for granted. I don’t. Zambia’s Internet penetration rate is currently less than one percent (32 percent have cell phones). I am one of the lucky few in this country with my own Internet connection. Of course, I paid a small fortune to have it installed — which should make those who live in developed countries like the United States thankful. Within two days you can have cheaper Internet access for far less than $100 per month. Not so here. For over $1,000 you can have a wireless connection that runs not much faster than 512Kbps. Checking web sites, yes. Downloading full-length movies? No.