ICT being used by more and more people
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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