26 April 2012

Southern Africa: Joining the IT Super Highway

The main conference hall turned into a computer jamboree on the last day of the Third Gender Justice and Local Government Summit on 25 April 2012. Participants took to the communications highway in a learning session on how to use the new information technology (IT).

Approximately 100 computers including laptops were set up in the plenary for delegates to learn how to network with each other, navigate the Gender Links (GL) page, set up email and face book accounts. GL's Chief of Operations, Kubi Rama, facilitated the fun session.

To kick-start the conversation on IT, four women who have risen from IT novices to join this superhighway, presented their stories. One of the presenters, Nancy Padare, started off as a domestic worker without any tertiary education. After attending a computer course courtesy of GL in her early fifties, Padare who is now over sixty, says she went on to open an email account, then work at GL as a receptionist before being promoted to GL Cottages guest house manager. She says, 'I can now even work in a hotel or lodge booking clients due to my familiarity and confidence with hotel booking systems.

Padare is very conversant with the Knight Bridge booking system and even assists guests with their IT queries such as internet wireless connection. She summed up her presentation by saying one can never stop learning. She started using a computer in her fifties.

In her personal life, she says the ability to use email and other internet based systems has made it easy for her to communicate with her relatives back in Zimbabwe.

After the panel presentation, participants moved on to explore the vast opportunities communication technologies present. A cyber-dialogue took place as part of the learning. A cyber dialogue is a live chat where people communicate instantly while on the internet in a pre-designed chat room.

Delegates also discussed climate change during the IT session and they signed the on-line petition for an Addendum to the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development on climate change and sustainable development. Oscar Tsvuura posted that, "climate change is everyone's business. People must join their hands in order to be able to come out with ideas that will assist in finding lasting solutions and paint the world green.

Another comment from Nosiphe Mdziniso read "go green, preserve and respect the environment."

Moving away from facebook participants visited the GL website page where everyone completed their online evaluation forms.

After the session, most participants said they felt empowered and felt they were part of the information super highway. They even posted comments on the GL facebook comments.

"Everyone is connected on IT social networks and I think that it is great to bring every participant on board for communication with people and sharing ideas and experiences even while at home," said Palesa Mpapa on the GL face book page.

While the bigger group of the summit agrees to the participants' presentations being the most beneficial, a participant from Zimbabwe insists joining the IT superhighway session took the cup. "We were able to connect to Facebook and the GL website thus we will now be able to do follow-ups on the good work of GL even in our own countries," the participant commented.

From these comments, it is evident that most participants enjoyed getting their voices heard around the world via ICTs. The online feedback has been very positive with most participants expressing their appreciation to GL for organising the summit.

'Malisema Mahloane is a journalist with BAM media in Lesotho. This article is part of GL Opinion and Commentary Service, special news and analysis series of Gender Justice and Local Government Summit.

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