Right to repair

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As our consumer techs such as smartphones, laptops and more become increasingly complex and sophisticated, it has also become increasingly difficult to repair them without specialised skills, or is it?

You could see a similar phenomenon happening in the field of automobiles. Cars used to be pretty easy to figure out and maintain by yourself. But as they became more technically complex, things weren’t as easy anymore.

In addition to that, auto manufacturers started to go out of their way to make it increasingly difficult to repair their automobiles without their ‘expertise’ for example, by making it impossible to disassemble the engine without proprietary screwdrivers which only the manufacturer had.

You’ll notice something very similar to how tech manufacturers such as Apple and Samsung operate. For example, the biggest reason an ordinary consumer would replace their phone would be because of bad battery life, worn down by usage.

It wasn’t all that long ago when we were able to replace the battery all by ourselves. Simply pop open the back and voila!

But being able to open your phone up to swap a battery had to be given up as a compromise for sleeker designs and waterproofing. Now, if someone needs their battery replaced, they would have to risk a botched-up job with knock-off parts, usually cheaply made in China, or pay a premium to have the manufacturer’s authorised repair centre get the job done.

Such practices are becoming increasingly prevalent in the world of tech, and being unable to do even simple maintenance without having to pay a hefty price to the manufacturer, who has all the power in this conversation isn’t a good feeling.

Of course, either way, you’re risking a lot in terms of personal data being leaked. It’s not that hard for your seemingly reliable tech repair guy to clone your hard drive, or copy files from your smartphone. Would you want someone else going through your files?

All this has led a new movement in the tech space, which is aptly named the ‘right to repair’ that has been gaining a lot of traction in many regions and nations, with even Governments considering the application of new legislation to curb greedy tech companies and their desire to mine more money from customers who paid for their products.

Those who support the ‘right to repair’ movement claim that people who  want to do maintenance of their devices and basic repairs on their own should have the option to purchase the necessary parts at a reasonable price, and be able to do the repairs themselves. If the manufacturer argues that specialised knowledge is needed, a repair guide can be provided along with the tools and parts.

The company iFixit has been making a massive push towards the right to repair with their repair kits specifically made for each product of consumer electronics. But they aren’t the only ones in the conversation or the only ones to profit from such legislation becoming standardised throughout the world.

Being able to repair your tech without bearing the cost of an arm or a leg, or having to trust a dodgy repair shop to get the job done without either stealing your data, or using replica parts that aren’t original would be something everyone can appreciate.

Of course, it’s still a far cry for Sri Lanka to ever see the right to repair making traction yet. With very little support from brands overseas, we usually have no choice but to take risks when having our tech replaced or repaired.

However, one thing we can do is to learn how to do basic repairs on our own, and train ourselves for basic repairs and maintenance now. Because as it is, we need to make sure that we can get the maximum value out of the tech we buy now, and ensure we have reliable and dependable devices.

By Shanuka Kadupitiyage