Wednesday, September 10, 2008

If I looked up your name on Google, would I find your blog??

Today I was showing my helper Thobile around my blogs, so she can get the basics of uploading content.

She has done a computer course, and has been practicing her PC skills on one of my machines to get her Word/Excel/PowerPoint up. I also wanted her to be able to manoeuvre around the Internet – it comes in handy when Baby, who is 10-year old, needs home work assistance and I’m away on assignment/I'm working on a tight deadline.

She watched as I uploaded content for a while, and then she asked: “If I looked up your name on Google, would I find your blog?”

“Of course,” I said, clicking through to Google to demonstrate. At the back of my mind I was thinking, “she knows what Google is?We haven’t covered that in her lessons!”
“Oh good!” she said. “I can also do that on my cellphone.”
Then she logged onto the web and typed up my name on Google for a search.

Hours later, I’m still marvelling at the fact that my helper has been connected to the World Wide Web for quite a while, and is getting comfortable learning her way around the digital world.

Yes, she is African, female, from deep rural areas in KwaZulu Natal, works as a domestic, but her mobile phone has opened a completely world.

Maybe some time soon she will be able to start generating content, telling her own story. Wouldn’t that be something?

Ironically, this incident ties in with part of the debate that took place at the Digital Citizen Indaba which took place this past weekend, on whether ordinary Africans are gaining acccess to the tools and resources that allow them to generate their own content.

My challenge to readers: If you're South African, given the high mobile penetration rates in this country, chances are you helper already owns a cellphone. What can you do to help your helper use the tool more effectively? For example, you could:

- Find out what your helper can do with her mobile
- Help her appreciate the capacity of the tool she has in her hands
- Show her some of the features in her mobile, and teach her how she use them
- Introduce her to the world wide web and help her get comfortable moving around

A lot of these things will only cost you a bit of time, and it doesn't have to happen all at once. You also have to be considerate about airtime usage, because your helper can only afford small amount to use to make calls to friends and family. But over time, you can enhance your helper's access to knowledge and resources.

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