Cash and pictures

Jul 19th, 2009 | By | Category: International

The poor always get the worst deals.

The poor must pre-pay for their electricity – the Electricity Board reasoning that bills might never be paid – but pre-paying means being unable to avail of discounts.

The poor often have no regular bank accounts, so the discounts offered for direct debit payments are not available.

The poor often find it hard to get credit, so end up paying the high and sometimes extortionate interest rates.

The poor do not have Internet access to get the best deals, and, even if they had, they would have no credit card with which to pay.

The poor have mobile phones topped up with vouchers from shops; the cost of prepaid calls always being higher than those who paid by those who are offered discounts through their monthly bills.

The poor never have the cash to buy in bulk, and even if they had, they do not have the transport or the storage.

The poor will often buy the worst food because it is easy and it is filling.

The poor will often have to buy clothes they know will not last because they cannot afford to buy anything of quality.

The stories told by those who struggle at the lower end of the income scale would provide many more examples of the weakest and the most vulnerable being exploited.

The experience of the poor in Ireland is replicated around the world, but, on an international stage, the poor sometimes simply disappear.

The excellent website Panoramio offers the opportunity to view photographs from every corner of the world; the best are selected for use by Google Earth.  It is possible to travel around the world sitting in your own chair and to see sights through the eyes of people who live there or who have been there.  Popular destinations are covered by thousands of photographs.

Searching for Rwanda and Burundi, the number of pictures was rather fewer and it seemed a good idea to upload pictures from a recent trip.  The problem arose when trying to pinpoint the location of the pictures on the map.  Google simply does not have maps with any degree of detail and even the satellite pictures on Google Earth are distant and poorly defined.  While places in the Western world can be viewed at a level of a couple of hundred metres- enabling you to see whose car is in the drive – Rwanda becomes no more than a blur at 5,000 metres.

Google and Panoramio can only use the maps and satellite images made available to them.  Perhaps those responsible for the satellite photography would not want pictures of two of the poorest nations on Earth to be too readily available, more likely, there is simply no commercial viability in taking photographs for which there is no more than minimal interest.  The poor disappear from the picture.

From the humblest scratch card for your mobile phone to images taken from space, it’s spending power that gets you the best deal.

Leave a comment »

  1. That is one of the most powerful and thought provoking pieces I have read in a long time both on terms of the poor around us and the poor of the world. We take so much of every day for granted don’t we!

  2. Thanks. There was a book called ‘Dark Heart’ about poverty in Britain that came out in 1998 that really made me think. Niall Ferguson’s ‘The Ascent of Money’, which came out last year, has interesting insights on what it’s like if you can’t get credit.

Leave Comment