I was heading downtown for a photo assignment last week but got distracted just before I went down into the C-Train station at Westbrook, Calgary. It was one of the first fine days after our long winter, the sky was clear blue and I looked up to see a white communications tower being put into service. From ground level, I stood and appreciated the climbing skills of an agile, and brave, communications technician as he signaled up the antenna components and began to bolt them in place at the top of the 30m high tower. I got a few photographs with the lens I had in my bag but decided that I must deviate from my original plan. I went back home and returned shortly afterward with a longer lens to get a close-up view of two of his colleagues continuing their installation.
Climbing technicians are putting cell phone towers like this one into service all across the world as communications become more and more mobile. In urban areas, the density of towers has increased since each one can only handle a finite number of calls or data traffic at once. On the last check, there were in the region of 13,000 wireless antenna towers across Canada, a number that will continue to grow as we use more and smart devices.
Communications on the go
While many social uses of smartphones are informal and many users are tied to their mobile devices simply to chat, text, and swipe through millions of images each day, the value of mobile communications is huge in terms of supporting the sustainable development goals (SDGs). And while there will always be some contention around the location of individual towers, more thought going into their design and the use of existing structures to support the communications components can reduce their visual and aesthetic intrusion.
Mobile technology and the Sustainable Development Goals
The transition from wired telephone communications to mobile phone technology has had a transformational impact on businesses, governments and civil society around the world. As stated by the United Nations Development Program, it is “reaching across geographies, income levels, and cultures – helping to empower women, create jobs, spur financial independence, improve education, boost agriculture production, and promote better health”. The sustainable value of mobile phones has also “enabled communities to monitor elections, hold governments accountable, and save lives in natural disasters – all of which contributes toward progress on the SDGs.
Happy International Workers Day!
Please visit J. Ashley Nixon Photography for more images of working life and the sustainable development goals.