HOW TO: technology and implementation

How to: technology-and-implementation
Techie is a term, derivative of the word technology, for a person who displays a great, sometimes even obsessive, interest in technology, high-tech devices, and particularly computers. (source: Wikipedia)
The word geek is a slang term, noting individuals as “a peculiar or otherwise odd person, especially one who is perceived to be overly obsessed with one or more things. (source:Wikipedia)

by Frerieke van Bree

I don’t consider myself a real ‘techie’, but I do have a strong passion for technology.
And although the word ‘geek’ is often used in obsessive computer/technology/connectivity situations, looking at the explanation on Wikipedia makes me think: Yes I am a geek. A big one. I am obsessed with combining my passions (humanity, technology, design, leadership). I am a people loving-passion following-intercultural connecting-voices facilitating and human empowering GEEK.

Last year I attended the Web of Change conference in Canada. Being among some of the brightest web focused changemakers from The States and Canada was extraordinary. People like Peter Deitz, Marc Laporte, Michael Silberman and many others inspired me to hold on to the thought that technology can make a difference in the lives of many underprivileged people. Attending the (mostly white) Wordcamp South Africa (a gathering of fans of the open source blogging software WordPress ) opened my eyes to how big the gap between technology implementation in the privileged (mostly white) and implementation and usage in the underprivileged (mostly black/colored) communities is.
Recently I visited MobileActive08 in Johannesburg. A (to me) very inspiring, but also overwhelming mix of geeks, techies (including Google, Microsoft,..), funders and implementers, who all  make a difference in the world through mobile technology. I was blown away by what is already being done with the mobile phone in the developing world. A few personal highlights: meeting Erik Hersman and getting to know the crisis report enabling Ushahidi and listening to Guy Berger and his Journalism project The News is Coming in Grahamstown, South Africa.

Being at those conferences made me feel like being back at University. Our faculty of Architecture was considered to be the ‘soft’ faculty of the Technical University of Delft in The Netherlands, other faculties used to make jokes about the ‘cut and glue’ course we were attending. The 80% male-20% female rate in Delft, being the only girl on our Windsurf association board, living with 4 bright men in a house…it all made me feel like a black sheep in a world of Men and Technology. And after university it was: being a woman in the building industry, being a woman in a (unfortunately still!) predominantly white-male dominated South African society and now I ‘torture’ myself with….visiting technology conferences…

My insecurity at conferences tells me: What am I doing here? Where’s my IPhone/blackberry/apple computer? How do I talk tech? How on earth do I catch up with all knowledge in this audience? It is like being back at University…..I don’t belong here.

Fortunately, my secure and balanced me says: does it matter? My vision is clear, my passion is big.
Go and explore girl, make those connections, learn as much as possible.

Major Non-profit organizations have their own Technology consultant on board and come up with the most creative and innovative uses of technology on the ground. Great. But….
I wonder: How to get the message of what is possible with technology out to the many “heroes in underprivileged communities”??? How to hear the needs and ideas of young brights minds in the developing world??? How to empower Africans by African ingenuity??? How to have Africans say NO to the brain drain? How to have Africa really be in the hands of Africans!!

I enjoyed reading Ethan Zuckermans words on bridge figures {…we need bridge figures, people who can help build connections between cultures. We need xenophiles, people who are interested in the whole world and in building conversations that break out of the homophily trap.}

If people ask me what my secret skill in life is I say I am a connector and facilitator. I facilitate a space where the one can meet the other, where people from The developed West meet the poor South, young meet old, You meet Them, They meet YOU and YOU get to know YOURSELF. I facilitate a space of no judgement, listening and curiosity. A space of fun! and smiles 🙂

Back to the title of this blog post: {How To: technology and implementation}

How to improve the implementation of Technology in order to eradicate poverty/empower the underprivileged/bridge the implementation gap?
My two cents…

  • Improve the language of technology: right now it is too techie and not easy accessible for all. It can not be read/reached by the communities on the ground that know best what is needed in their village.
  • Include (underprivileged) youngsters!! The bright minds of the future should be included in the conversation of today! Let them be inspired and generate ideas!
  • Support bridge figures! Give them a feeling of -belonging- in the world of Men and Tech! Create (more) scholarships for fancy conferences!!

I am so happy that I was able to step over my own foolish insecurity and explore and exchange at the above mentioned conferences. Great things come out as a result! Me being the connector enables underprivileged students from Khayelitsha to become mobile reporters on Afrigadget !!!

I promise I will never doubt the impact I am making in the world and the fact that I matter…
I have experienced a shift from ‘not belonging’ to a ‘knowing who I am and what my passion and purpose in life is’
Being a bridge is the best! Thanks COSAT learners! And thanks you Tech-savvy global inhabitants!

4 Responses so far.

  1. Katrin says:

    Frerieke — I am so glad you came to MobileActive and I wish we had had a chance to chat! And yes, this world can be intimidating and overwhelming. And it is – especially the mobile world — dominated by men. But there is hope 😉 The event was testament to the many women in mobile who are doing great work and making their way, And so are you – with bridge building, with savvy, with kindness, with maturity, and the ability to translate geek-speak into something meaningful. The world does need us urgently, I have no doubt! And we will forge our way and make it better, and be better for it.

  2. Urho Redcliffe says:

    Wow, very thought provoking words! Reading this, has made me realise even more, how society is built in way that isolates its underpriviledge. We shouldn’t have that class distinction – but it is alive and well, unfortunately. I like the words on bridge figures – that is how i saw my work as a teacher/facilitator. And i agree, whole-heartedly that it is about the three steps you mention, which flow so amazingly (was that planned?): improve to make it accessible leading to people actually feeling included and providing that support, where the gap is being ‘bridged’. I will be keeping up to date on what you are up to. If you do see the kids (grade10s), send them my regards.
    Urho Redcliffe (melbourne, australia)

  3. love to the world says:

    Thanks Katrin, it is wonderful to receive those empowering words from somebody like you, (co-)organizer of the mobileactive08 ! Let’s keep on inspiring each other and take on to inspire more powerful ladies all around the world to stand up and voice out!

    Urho, so great to see you here online! The students will love it that you have the interest to read their stories and leave comments. I am delighted to hear that my words are food for thought. I am even more delighted about the fact that -even though you are in Australia now- South Africa and the COSAT students are close to your heart. I truly encourage you to keep on coming back here and share about your experiences! I hope you enjoy your new life there down under! I will see the grade 10s this weekend and will send them your regards!

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