From Dreams to Action
Having recently started working as a freelancer for Bangladesh’s largest circulating English daily, I only now am starting to take my baby steps into realizing my dreams. Having had just a handful of my works published till now with each of them different in their own way, I am already starting to gain experience in the different methods used in the field of journalism –something which I have been thoroughly intending to gain till the beginning. This profession allows me to look into issues in ways many other professions would not even let me go near.
During the time I was still deciding whether I would be able to establish myself as a good journalist, something which I still do sometimes, I have frequently thought about, in retrospect, how the practices in my field has changed so drastically. Things are so dependent on technology these days that even the people from this field (seemingly) a couple of years ago would not have been able to fathom it.
As I write this journal, I am sitting in front of my personal computer and trying to type away a masterpiece. I would be editing, re-editing, and re-re-editing in order to get an acceptable version of this work before I can show it to the world without even opening a second Microsoft Word page. But if I were writing this with a pen and paper (though nothing really beats the satisfaction that these two entities provides), I would have been re-writing this work in only-God-knows-how-many-hundreds-of-pages to get to the final version. Hence, clearly there is something very simple happening here. It is very stinging to admit it but, I am a very true example of how people are almost completely becoming dependent to digital technology to do even the simplest of things. Hence it can be stated that however I, or anyone else, may choose to do something, the need to be digitally literate is increasing by the minute.
From a more general point of view, when it comes to learning the use of internet, or any other digital equipment, it definitely is the primary fact that many cannot afford a digital luxury. Especially in our part of the world. However, for those who can, I would say gender biasedness is one of the main challenges. Girls, especially from the rural areas, from a very early age are programmed that the digital space is just not for them. Their surroundings offer the explanation that it is something more suited to men than women. Much of the problem can also originate from the home. Many parents usually would go to great length to allow their sons to be digitally literate but not their daughters, in which case they think that it is simply not necessary. The whole of science and technology is presented as more of a 'man's thing'. Even movies and other media programs here, which influence people a lot, portray women in the 'less masculine and more feminine' roles. For instance, it is not always that we get to see a woman computer engineer in the south-east Asian movies.
Most people are simply unaware of the potentials of the usage of internet. The same goes for most of our teachers, especially at the primary school levels. It is considered unnecessary at such levels for which the unfathomable information bank of the internet remains unused by most of us.
Then there are the high bills of course. Another problems faced here is that most of the internet providers tend to triple the bills each time the internet speed needs to be increased. This is a major problem for most of the people here since, due to the sever economic instability that they live through on a daily basis the internet becomes almost completely inaccessible for them.
Overcoming the challenges faced by people while trying to get more accessibility to the internet should be as much of a concern as most of the other issues dealt in this region. Older people here are generally the least acquainted with technology -that is something which serves as the main barrier for them. I personally have tried overcoming this problem from the very basic: I have taught my parents how to use the computer and internet. As a result of which, they now realize the full potential of this and how much the internet can actually provide. They now realize that the internet can be a very powerful tool and people should not be biased towards who gets to use it and who does not because the internet itself does not recognize the difference between male and female, and poor and rich.
For those of us handful of lucky ones who do have connections to the internet, minus most of the social prejudice that is present in this sub-continent, there are always some tools, resources, and trainings that would be welcomed -which if people had access to beforehand would likely make them feel more comfortable while using the internet. These could also most definitely work as helping hands while trying to increase the digital literacy amongst the more underprivileged society: i.e. Availability of Hi-speed internet connection (including in the public places), more access to computer (or any IT that can run the internet), workshops on keeping people interested in the internet, guide books with videos of how to use the internet and the browser details, regular updates about the various ways of benefit from the internet, providing training to all classes of people at an affordable price. The list could go on and on.
However, I guess the people here are already very much aware of the fact that, at least in Bangladesh, the government has all the reason not to be worried about the issue of digital literacy, and access to the internet mainly because they have enough problems in their hands to solve already. Hence, it is mainly up to the general public themselves now to start working on this issue. If anyone now asks me, ‘Have you helped others on Internet use and digital literacy?’ my answer would be, YES. I, alongside working as a freelancer, am working in a non-profit organization called Durnibar Foundation which was founded by a friend of mine. We have an extensive project were we promised to take care of the issue of digital literacy and we have started from the basics. We started from our own homes. We helped our parents and younger cousins be more accustomed to the internet and more importantly we started teaching them to me more digitally literate. After this is done, our next phase of the projects is to help out extended family members who may not be as economically stable as others. They are in a way the least likely to be digitally literate due to their economic stance in society which is made worse by the constant fluctuations in internet (and computer) costs. This is phase is already being pursued at the moment since many of us who are part of Durnibar Foundation have already started working on it.
Our final phase would be to go public. That is the main intention that we have but we will need more, much more resources and definitely cooperation from the public. But this will take time. A very long time because trying to achieve something like this in a country with a population of 160 million people is no easy task. However, regardless of this, I have my hopes up. And just maybe, one day I will be assigned to tell the story of this project by Durnibar Foundation to the world –about the great things being achieved by it. Then again this is simply a dream. If this happens, I definitely will be a happy journalist. :D