I kicked the red African soil off my shoes as I walked into the classroom of the Gunda Secondary School in Nkungi village, Tanzania. The school was built by Floyd and Kathy Hammer, founders of Outreach, Inc. Floyd and Kathy traded the mamas in Nkungi grain for their beautiful hand-woven grass baskets, then brought the baskets to the US to sell so they could raise money to build the school. The student/teacher ratio is one teacher per 77 students. (Floyd and Kathy have purchased over 65,000 baskets in the last ten years! You can buy some here)
The writing on the black board impressed me; a student had written the definition of globalization. In essence, it said that the world is connected and is one large village. This same student would pick up a hoe lying by his or her desk later in the day and work in the little farm outside the school where they grew crops to feed themselves. Even though they are years behind the developed world in technology, they understood that we are one big village.
Economist Thomas Friedman uses another word to describe globalization; flat. He argues that technology has truly flattened our world.
In college, I discovered that Christopher Columbus did not sail the ocean blue in fourteen-hundred-and-ninety-two to prove that it was round. He did it for the typical reasons; greed, national domination, and religious proselytization. He did not do it to prove it was round. But it turns out the world is flat after all.
My heart spends a lot of time in Africa even though my body doesn’t. Although the connections are sometimes spotty, I can call, Skype, email, and text pretty easily. I no longer think of Africa as over there. It’s my next-door neighbor- just takes a while to get there.
The world has become much flatter which affords a lot more opportunities:
- A changing economy offers entrepreneurs new ways to do business
- Political pressure can happen more easily via social media
- Financial investments in social impact can be more easily monitored
- International relationships can be developed (I communicate frequently through Facebook and Twitter to my African partners)
- Greater accountability is offered (cell phone videos are a powerful tool)
Maybe technology will advance enough so it doesn’t take so long to get to Africa from Kansas. A Star Trek-like teleporter would be a nice.
Beam me up, Scotty.