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Using the Internet in Rural Kenya Printable Version PRINTABLE VERSION
by Mwangi Munyua, Kenya Oct 18, 2007
Technology   Short Stories


I come from a rural township in upcountry Kenya where the only link to the internet is the heavily restricted structure that is now common in all of Kenya's Post Offices.
Due to the high cost of using the service and the fact that there'll always be a sizeable queue of people waiting to use the contraption, I'm always forced to type my long letters beforehand and save them on diskette so that when my turn at the computer arrives I can just insert the diskette, copy paste whatever it is I want to send and dispatch, thus saving time, money and most important, my mind. [The temptation to go bonkers is always very high at such moments].
The illiteracy levels in my country and especially in the rural areas is still high, especially among the adult population. Its even worse when it comes to computer literacy. So whenever one is using the service you have to put up with having to explain to all the curious onlookers whatever it is you are doing on this 'TV' that can even send and receive letters! 'Is it a phone?' Some will ask. 'And where are you putting/inserting the money?', 'So won't the next person read your letters?', 'Er..no you usually log out..it's like a big house where every one has a key to their own room, and so when I close my room and leave the other person cannot open it to read my letters. They can only read the ones in their room, in which case they only have the key to that room, which I don't have' ... and so on.
Worse still, in rural Kenya the Post Office happens to also serve as the bank. So there'll always be people sending and ... no three quarters of the time they're withdrawing money sent by their children working in the cities, or the salaries that are sent through the Post Office, while yet others will be purchasing and sending money orders and postal orders to pay school fees for their younger children. And what a better way to kill the boredom of queuing than standing by and admiring the goings on at this 'window to the world'.
Recently I was just about to send my usual mail when, once I had removed and inserted the diskette into the computer this old man comes by and asks, 'And now what is that you have put inside the computer'. I had already answered so many questions that day, was irritated and in a hurry to leave. 'Ah, that one...Er, that's the envelope, like the one you've just put that letter in.' He went away happy and smiling, he had fundamentally increased his knowledge of computers. I couldn't be happier.



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