Editorial: Holiday musings

Author : Mark Gradwell, Consultant Editor

24 July 2017

Mark Gradwell, Consultant Editor of EPDT
Mark Gradwell, Consultant Editor of EPDT

I was lucky enough to enjoy a summer holiday – on this occasion, travelling to Thailand on my first ever visit to Asia, for almost two blissful weeks. As with so many situations, my trip got me thinking about technology and how it has transformed our lives and the world around us.

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It was interesting to be somewhere completely different from my scope of experience (my previous travel has been limited to Western Europe and North America), and see the impact of technology on their society, infrastructure and way of life.

While Bangkok was in many ways a thriving, modern city, not so different to those in Europe or the US, some more remote parts of Southern Thailand were much more rural and less developed, with a simpler way of life. But, of course, technology has found its way into even these rural communities – the ubiquity of the smartphone was plain to see, for instance, with even Buddhist monks in their orange robes taking selfies not an altogether uncommon sight!

And I was surprised to find that, having purchased a relatively inexpensive local SIM at the airport, I was able to enjoy unlimited data and typically better, more reliable 4G coverage throughout my holiday than I do at home in the UK!

Some of this juxtaposition of technology in remote settings is enabled by the way the infrastructure to support it evolves. Rather than the gradual advancement that is perhaps more common in more developed Western nations, technology in developing nations often jumps steps or is bolted on.

In Bangkok, a skytrain runs on elevated concrete pillars, often over existing road infrastructure, helping to ease road congestion and reduce air pollution in a very densely populated city. Alongside it, telephone poles seem to carry an incredible amount of cabling, much of which is hidden in the ground here in the UK. And numerous cell towers enable mobile communications to reach even into the rainforests. This bolt-on approach probably makes it faster, cheaper and easier to roll out, maintain and upgrade the infrastructure needed to support the demand for technology, helping to more rapidly extend and democratise its accessibility.

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