A no technology life is no fun

I struggled with this challenge. Not because I couldn’t bear to part with a gadget but because I couldn’t find one I was strongly attached enough to make a day’s abstinence a suitably harrowing affair.

It’s not that I dislike modern technology. Far from it – at work I am firmly embedded in a sea of e-mail, communicator conversations and a brilliant phone system which follows me around wherever in the world I am. Take any part of that away from me and I’d be completely lost (as was ironically proven last week when a glitch with our firewall cut us off for 36 hours from e-mail communication with all of our seven overseas offices and had the phone system going on and off like a belisha beacon).

But this was a weekend challenge, so giving up work-related technology gizmos that didn’t count. And at home, although I am a great admirer of modern technology, I don’t actually get to use it that much. The iPod Touch gets played perhaps once a week when I have a quiet moment to fill (it would be twice, but the first time I try it the kids have inevitably flattened the battery and it has to be charged). The iMac (yes I am a lover of Apple technology) sits beguilingly in the corner of the lounge, but the kids are only allowed internet time at the weekend and if I want to use it I have to book weeks in advance. And my HTC touch screen phone (which I love principally for its ability to provide instant access to my office diary wherever I am), in honesty doesn’t get much use as a mobile phone (just checked my call log – a typical week is 8 calls out and 2 calls in). Giving up any of these for a day would be too easy. 

As I said, I struggled and in fact ultimately failed to find a gadget I am so hooked to on a weekend I couldn’t easily give it up for a day. So I thought I’d mention another technology I had to give up at home, involuntarily and for just 12 hours recently. A few weeks ago the water mains burst at the bottom of our road. Thames Water was out quickly to affect a repair, but to do that they had to close down the mains. The first I knew of this was when I went to make a cup of coffee and the tap was dry. We have a combi boiler and so no cold water tank, so there’s no back up storage in the house. Once the mains is closed that’s it. I rang Thames Water to find out what the problem was. They told me of the burst main. I asked them how long it was going to take to fix. They said several hours. I asked if they were going to provide a tanker in the meantime so that people in the street would still have water. I surprised myself at how upset I was with their answer – “we only provide tankers if the water has to be cut off for more than 12 hours at a time”. 12 hours! But I needed a coffee! And I hadn’t had a shower. And what about cooking lunch and dinner? And (horror of horrors) how were we going to flush the loo?

A quick trip to the corner shop and the purchase of 10 large bottles of mineral water solved the first couple of problems and I was planning a family trip to the local Sainsbury’s to use the loo there when, much ahead of the “several hours” estimate by Thames Water for supply to be restored, a gushing sound was heard from the kitchen as water started streaming out of the tap I had accidently left open.

I’ve enjoyed reading the ‘no technology’ day blogs and hearing about the struggle to survive without this or that gadget. But in reality we would all really start to struggle seriously if one of the technologies that fundamentally underwrites our daily existence was taken away from us. We struggled in our house to come to terms with living without clean, safe, piped water in our house for just a few hours. But the reality in the developing world is that there are still something like 1.2 billion people without access to safe water at all. We would really struggle with a power cut after a couple of hours, but there are still 1.5 billion people in the world without any form of electricity and around 3 billion people still have to cook their food over an open fire because they don’t have access to a modern and clean source of energy in the kitchen.

That’s not a no-technology day, It’s a no technology life. And it’s not fun.

One response to “A no technology life is no fun”

  1. Jonathan Erskine Says:

    Hi Simon,

    I am a postgraduate student in Toronto, wirting about Practical Action and its approach to development,
    I was wondering what current challenges Practical Action is facing?

    Jon erskine

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