ICT being used by more and more people

December 29, 2008 at 10:12 am 7 comments

On Christmas Day I met a couple of friends for lunch and we were discussing how technology is being used by more and more people in Pakistan – and increasingly amongst low literate and low income groups. The digital divide does of course still exist but some of the  lines are beginning to blur as more people have access to, and are adopting, information and communication technologies with excitement and ease. We still have a long way to go but at least we are on the way. Zakintosh has related a few examples and has gone as far as to say that the “ICT revolution” is finally here.

It would seem that this is indeed true.  One of the young men I was having lunch with told me about his housekeeper who had access to an old PC. The housekeeper had saved some money and got hold of a cheap digital camera with which he has been taking pictures of family and friends. He then discovered how to connect the camera to the PC upload the pictures and put them up on Flickr for family elsewhere to access. Wow.

It is worth remembering that many low-income Pakistanis are working elsewhere in the world and have so far depended on phone calls or letters or audio tapes to keep in touch with near and dear ones. Photos of children as they grow up have been rare either because of the expense or due to a lack of printing facilities in towns and villages. This certainly is an easy way to be in closer touch with family. Now if only we could have cheaper broadband access across a larger part of the country, we’d find more people using webcams to communicate and participate in family events over long distances, whenever they are unable to be physically present.

There is a young man working for me who has had very little education. He is honest and hardworking but has had only a couple of years of schooling. Since joining us, he has learnt to use office productivity software and scanning and image enhancement software. But more than that, it brings a smile to my face when I see him using Instant Messenger, Facebook and email. He uses Roman english on email as well as on SMS and does it quite well. If we could have Twitter, Facebook and SMS in Urdu, Punjabi, Balochi and Pushto, the adoption of ICT would grow at an even faster rate.

The other friend who was with us at lunch told us that his domestic helper has been spotted playing BlackJack and Solitaire on an old PC. And why not? Once they have access to technology and have got over the initial hesitance of using ICT, there is nothing they do in the “real world” that they cannot do in the virtual one. Oh okay perhaps I exaggerate. Perhaps there are a few things one cannot do online🙂

The spread of electronic media to the majority of households as well as the increased use of mobile phones by all sectors of society has not only made communication easier, it has also meant that different strata of society and now not only viewing and assimilating, but are actively participating in disucssions on all aspects of our lives. This will I hope lead to more empowerment and better understanding (I hate the word tolerance – why has it been taken as a positive word?).

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7 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Awais Naseer Keyani  |  December 29, 2008 at 11:57 am

    Exactly! Lots of stories are out there, I know a lot of people like this, including those who had never been to school, they see roman as we see Chinese or Russian but they own and operate MP3 Players, PCs, Camera Phones and lot of stuff like this.
    If u ask them to tell that what is written on the screen they cannot. But they operate them so efficiently with the help of icons that you are astonished!

    Reply
  • 2. ICT being used by more and more people | Tea Break  |  December 29, 2008 at 12:21 pm

    […] This cup of tea was served by: In the Line of Wire […]

    Reply
  • 3. Ahmad  |  December 29, 2008 at 5:01 pm

    “If we could have Twitter, Facebook and SMS in Urdu, Punjabi, Balochi and Pushto, the adoption of ICT would grow at an even faster rate.”
    Absolutely. But neither government nor private organisations including Pasha pay due attention to it. We are unable to develop even a proper Urdu font (nastaliq). Those organisation heavily dependent on Urdu (like Jang and other urdu papers) can definitely sponsor r&d of Urdu softwares/and or competitions if Pasha initiates some

    Reply
  • 4. bilish  |  December 29, 2008 at 8:15 pm

    @Ahmad
    With Events like Tie, bloggers meetups and many others, It’s ironical that we are yet to see any significant change in the way Urdu content is produced and published.

    @Jehan Ara
    My friends who used their PC for chatting and basic word processing are now proud owners of blog and if the word on the street is the way to go, I’m all excited to see some amazing stuff in the near future.

    Reply
  • 5. bilish  |  December 29, 2008 at 8:17 pm

    @Jehan Ara
    Snap shot feature is on your blog. Why don’t to turn it off?
    I’m sure you were aware of this.

    Reply
  • 6. Vic  |  December 29, 2008 at 9:54 pm

    @Ahmad: I don’t know if there is a good understanding of the social development dynamic, but I have seen that some of the best (ie, quickest, most efficient, most inclusive…) solutions come from passion and not from the kind of recognition that industry (read: e.g. PASHA) heavyweights sponsor. Nor from academia. As I said, I don’t know why that is.

    In India, just about all the good translation work in recent years has come out of volunteer bodies, and I suspect that includes a lot of the underlying tech stuff as well. The government sponsored some of it, but nearly all those projects are dead in the water.

    But it is posts like this that ought to bring out the volunteering spirit among young people, get them into cutting edge stuff, such as menu transliteration for popular applications as well as more techie designer stuff like fonts. Today’s web 2.0 stuff makes the actual work much easier than it was for those pioneering people who brought the early South Asian languages to the Net.

    Not that I am decrying the influence that industry bodies and academia can have. At the very least, they can help donate expensive SDK’s and so on to volunteer groups.

    Reply
  • 7. bilish  |  December 31, 2008 at 9:35 pm

    @Vic
    Academia is sending ill prepared graduates to market and not teaching them to fish properly. What I’ve seen is the lack of passion which is the main hurdle in getting something big in the mainstream.

    Reply

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