The Maya and Smartphones

Rudy Giron: Antigua Guatemala &emdash; The Maya and Smartphones

Several times I have covered the usage of technology by the Maya of Guatemala, either here in the archives of AntiguaDailyPhoto or in my own personal blog.

For instance back on February 2010 I shared with you how the Maya are not waiting for neither little brother or big brother to come teach them how to use smartphones.

That day I learned that the Maya are not sitting down waiting for “us” to bring them the technology and the knowledge of “how to use it.” That day I learned to be hopeful of the New Guatemala that peeks from just around the corner of the near future. That day I was reassured that Internet access in every corner of Guatemala will become a realty sooner than I expected; that edge and 3G mobile smart phones with Internet access are being used by a wider range of people than I expected; that Open School computer workshops are benefiting a lot of people who are usually off our attention radar.

It’s like what George Whitesides said in his recent TED talk, A lab the size of a postage stamp about the cellphones: “I don’t know if the idea of one computer, one child makes any sense anymore; here’s the computer of the future… The screen is already there and the device is pretty ubiquitous.”

That day I left the park with my shoes shined, my appetite satisfied, my heart full and a big smile on my face. Life is good!

Back then, it was already happening. However, inexpensive smartphones were still a way to go. Nowadays, a Chinese Android-based smartphone is very accesible so everyone, not just the Maya, can enjoy the benefits of camera, video recorder, audio recorder, et cetera, all packaged tightly into an intelligent telephone.

Back in January 2010, in the comments posted under Digital life in Antigua Guatemala, Braaad wondered aloud:

“I can’t wait till smartphones are cost-effective enough to saturate the entire country, i.e. the average Jose will be able to browse, watch vids, get email…PAY BILLS ONLINE, ahem.

Can you imagine LAG without all the lines to pay utilities at the bank? That’s some Ripley’s Believe It or Not!
I give it 2 years to become a reality.

Within the same entry SJBJ commented:

one of the sharpest memories I have of Guatemala is our first trip there, in 2007. We were in Chichi and there was an elderly woman there, in traditional dress, could have been 100 years ago. EXCEPT, she was speaking (in a native language) into a cell phone. Really took us aback, the contrast between traditional and modern.

© 2015, Rudy Giron. All rights reserved.

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  • NYChapin

    Rudy, why the need to single out the Maya? and who is “us” ?. Is cost of a phone and access to wireless connection not an issue for every Chapin? What is different for the Maya?

    Happy New Year !

    • These are very good questions NYChapin, I am glad the post has pulled you away from your studies. Us is we, the little brothers.

      • NYChapin

        How about equals? I like that better. Unfortunately the history of our country does not reflect that, but there is a whole movement working to make that change.

        Let’s not forget that the “Maya” were using the number 0 to dial the operator, centuries before the arrival of the so called “Conquistadores.”

  • ddeubel

    Nice post Rudy. I’m involved in education and technology (and have produced consumer apps) and what you “feel” is happening in so many places. So many who’ve never used a computer before, now have a powerful one in their hand and are using it to good effect. Could mention multiple markets in Africa as prime examples. The challenge though is for telecom providers and governments to create a viable cost model. No sense everyone having smart phones but many not being able to use them (and believe me, this is a reality now in Canada).

    • What you mention is quite true. Mobile Internet access is still quite expensive for most Guatemalans even though is getter cheaper and cheaper as the years go by. It helps that in Guatemala we have three major telecoms that compete with each other. With most of the mobile telephone companies one can get pre-paid internet access for daily flat fee of Q5/US$0.65. This is, of course, still too expensive for many Guatemalans. Here comes Wi-Fi access to the rescue, as long as you get access to a hotspot and the password remains the same for a while; if you get my drift.

      • ddeubel

        True but not a long term solution. Go to any library in Canada and you’ll be asked not to use your smartphone if you are just there lounging around. Too many people doing this. Public wifi will eventually create its own barriers of access and bottlenecks. People have to stand up and lobby and make sure the leash remains long (if you catch what I mean). The internet highway already has too many tolls on it and in many economies we are creating a very destructive digital underclass.

  • Norman E. Avila G.

    Hi Rudy, Why there must a difference? I don´t see posts about “The Maya and the LED TV” or “The Maya and the ,,,,” etc.. should there be any cultural issue about being maya and use of any technology or device.. ? I think is a tool that most people all around the world uses for the same purpose.. 😉

  • Mercutio57

    I remember being intrigued by the meeting of ancient and new a few years ago, when phones (not yet smart!) suddenly appeared everywhere in Antigua. And so…

    • NYChapin

      I love your work Mercutio57, very nice.

      • Mercutio57

        Gracias, muy amable