A phone in every canoe

Jungle transportAm enjoying Thomas L Friedman’s Thank You for Being Late which, at root, only tells us the boring story that the world is changing fast and how to adapt to it. What makes Friedman’s book interesting is his observation of how fast it is changing, and the thought that many things (laws, culture, life) have not caught up. Being a three-time Pulitzer prize winner, Friedman has some great examples too. Here’s one.

Lawrence (Larry) Summers, was a treasury official in the US. In 1988 — just 30 years ago — he was campaigning for the ill-fated Michael Dukakis and was picked up at the airport in a car with a phone in it. He was so excited that he used it to phone his wife and tell her.

Just nine years later, as deputy health secretary, Summers visited Cote d’Ivoire to open a village health care project that had been funded by American aid money. The village was remote enough for him to do the last part of the journey by canoe. As he was getting into the canoe for journey home, someone handed him a phone saying ‘Washington has a question for you.’ The world had gone from a carphone being an exotic luxury to a phone in every canoe in just nine years.

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