Empowered Online to bring impact Offline!
How has the Internet empowered me to achieve my goals?
They say things happen for a reason. Everything happens for a reason. Our short falls, our failures, our 'spur-of-the-moment' decision making, our tiny successes, and on and on, our progress in life - they all lead to something greater.
The bible text that I continue to claim every day is Jeremiah 29:11 that states: For I know the purpose and plan, I have for you - plans not to destroy you but to prosper you.
It's amazing how my choice of career path and my new found interest in Spiritual Path have all intertwined and in the centre of it is God, my family and the Internet.
I studied Computer Science and even then we never really used the Internet, the only subject that was closest to learning about the Internet was Introduction to HTML Programming. Computer Science wasn't even my desire of choices - I actually wanted to do Business (weird how now I'm trying to operate a ICT Freelance Business).
I'll always be thankful for this Computer Science Degree, not because I am now an expert Programmer (I'm no where near close!)but because it landed me in positions within organisations that I had unlimited access to the Internet and since then I have become an addict to it (in a good way-of course).
My very first email address was a hotmail address and this was created while I was still in Uni, but used it occasionally. My real 'emailing' started in 2006 using gmail - unfortunately I do not have it anymore, and I opened my Facebook Account in 2007 ( I don't have that either- have created new profiles).
Social use of Internet has its set of complications and challenges too but let us always ponder more on the 'positives' of it but never forget it has it's downside too.
I worked for an Oil Palm Research Organisation during the same year I avidly used the internet, and being the sole IT person managing the IT systems, doing MS Access Database Programming, making sure systems were up and running and attending to User Issues - Google was my very best friend.
I would go to Google for everything - from how to do coding for the database, how to solve issues with the servers and networks and computers, find in-depth information on other technical things and find information for the staff - Google definitely helped me to achieve my workload and resolving technical issues.
It was during this time that we moved from dial-up to VSAT and tasting broadband internet speeds for the first time was amazing! Of course it meant, leaving the office later than closing hours, lunch breaks in front of the computer, getting to work much earlier than usual - thank goodness I have kids, otherwise I would've practically slept in the office!
It was at the end of 2009, that I figured out that I could use Google Groups to create a Mailing List and include email addresses of anyone I wanted to. It was a discussion group on Facebook that talked about our Public Hospital from my province of Origin, Manus Province and people wanted to share ideas and thoughts of how to raise money for needed equipment. It was a great discussion which should include a whole lot more people, but at the time, there were only very few people on Facebook-but, many had access to email.
The Google Group Mailing List worked well, where it started with 20 and by the end of the week, I was able to add another 100. Come December, there were already over 200 people and discussions were moving from Hospital, to Tourism, to Water Supply to Asylum Seekers to Communication Towers, Education, etc. It was a full-on forum and also took up much of my time administering the mailing list, adding people, attending to queries.
A suggestion was raised to formally register an association and thus birthed the Manus Professionals for Community Development Inc. (MP4CD) of which I am founder.
Its been 4 years now since the establishment of the association and already we have projects established, one of them, our greatest achievement so far, being a Children's Library & Learning Facility recently opened, a project in partnership with an NGO in Australia called BukBilongPikinini, of which started from a local Donate-A-Book Project Call (http://worldpulse.com/node/42708) to members on the Google Mailing list and book donations from Australia and around the country were being collected, and finally the NGO (BukbilongPikinini) picking up on our project through social media which led to the collaboration and establishment of the Children's Library Facility (http://www.png.highcommission.gov.au/files/pmsb/140619%20-%20Manus%20pre...) in Manus Province.
If there is any great example I can give of online empowerment leading to offline empowerment - it would be this one, which I will always use to show how being 'online' does make an impact to development.
Other projects in progress include: Restoration of the old Public Library to become an Information Resource Centre, and our big project being the Backbone Communication Towers Project - all of these projects being discussions through the Google Mailing List, Facebook Forums and Consultative face-to-face Workshops. The association has become the 'skillsbank' and hub for Manus Professionals Network globally and a way of advisory to the Provincial Government.
The association is built on communication through email, social media and most of the input from members come via this google mailing list of which there are now over 1000+ subscribers and it has also encouraged many more Manusians to get online, so that they can have their 'say' and be able to be a part of the discussions.
From this role, I have learnt to manage and admin Facebook Pages, Facebook groups, use Google products more efficiently, use other Social Media sites and using Wordpress to create Websites. I have also learnt how to register domains (website addresses) and how to make a commission from registering websites through affiliate programs.
My interests have shifted since the establishment of this Association from managing servers and computers to being more engaged with people and communities.
I have since then left full-time employment and trying my hand at ICT freelancing having registered a Business Name, Computers And Internet Technology Services (CAITS), but even then, I see it as a Social Enterprise for ICT for Development, as it is more focused on up-skilling, empowering and encouraging people to use the internet more effectively and wisely rather than gaining great profits.
With the realisation that many people know about the internet but really do not know how to use it well or how to go about it, I have developed some learning materials which need to be completed but have conducted short sessions to teach people how to use the internet for utilising services such as Internet Banking, Online Airline Reservations and checking air fare costs, Searching for information. I have come up with a brilliant idea to get my children in on publishing some learning resources together - as my 2 daughters , one loves to draw and the other write - my very own illustrator and author :D
A daring, surprise-visit adventure I took and all thanks to the internet was to visit my then-boyfriend who was studying in a little place in Australia - through the internet, I was able to book and pay for all my international and domestic flight travels, the coach tickets, get information on the route and train schedules, a map and communicate with his mentor there to get me to him. All done online.
People still ask me how I managed to do all that?
The power of information and technology- opens doors to the unknown and the impossible even in the little things.
This year would have to be my biggest achievement with being an 'addict' on the internet. (Here I am writing this at 1:30am on MS Word).
As I am subscribed to many a mailing lists, one post was the opportunity to participate in a Youth Blogging Competition in Agriculture. (http://worldpulse.com/node/90824) I never kept a blog before, but I wanted to know how, and this was my opportunity to try it out.
And I did. And now I want to blog about everything I see! lol!
My blog focused on Papua New Guinea Women in Agriculture, ICT and Development.
Though I didn't make the finalists, I was one of the few Pacific people who entered the competition and my blog was good enough to take me on a trip all the way to Nairobi, Kenya! to attend the biggest International Agriculture Conference where they would announce the winners for the Competition as an 'encouragement' to keep on blogging. Such blessing!
During the conference, I was part of the Social Reporting Team who throughout the conference were tasked to sit in during presentations, take notes, videos and write blog posts for the official Conference Site(http://blogs.cta.int), along with doing Twitter updates, Facebook and other social media updates so to get the conference to reach out to many, many people.
I learnt many skills about reporting, and using Social Media, tips on blogging and writing.
I thought back to the 2011 World Pulse Voice of Future Program which I participated in and learnt skills on Citizen Journalism and even for this program, I am thankful for the internet.
Coming back from Kenya, there was a Social Media Training held in the province I live in, which I was able to share my experiences about the trip and the blogging competition and was able to help 21 of the participants create their first every blog site and post!
I am also now the Website Administrator for the Local Mission Regional Office and for the local church that I worship at.
Many more 'online' opportunities have emerged, such as being nominated by the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation EU-ACP (CTA) to do fully-funded further, advanced e-learning on Web2.0 and Social Media later on this year, and I have also enrolled for the 1st Women, Entrepreneur, ICT Course offered by Telecentre.org of which is currently underway - which cost 50USD but I'm certain is an investment.
I am still amazed at how this journey with technology and internet has taken me and I have come to realise that this is my 'gift'.
My special gift that I have been blessed with to be able to help others come to realise their potential and to be able to assist people to do what they thought was impossible is such a rewarding feeling.
At the same time, opening many doors of endless opportunities for me. Information is knowledge and knowledge is power and being able to empower another to utilise the internet to gain knowledge and information- spiritually, personally, professionally and holistically is a great goal that I will always try to achieve.
Though I have a bank account that stays very close to minimum balance, I love what I do - and am thankful for how life has come. I'm thankful for my ever-supporting working mum who helps out with getting internet credits (my greatest expense ever!) and being there for my kids and I to allow me to achieve my 'online' & 'offline' goals.
Online Empowerment most definitely leads to greater achievements offline and I continue to see success in these, through my community organisation, through my freelance ICT social enterprise, and through the many online social networking discussion groups that have given many a voice to speak on issues that were once taboo, and that were once only discussed behind closed doors.
My trip to Nairobi, Kenya, allowed me to see the power of technology of which Papua New Guinea and the Pacific, we are still lacking behind - with the high cost of internet and limited accessibility - we, are still missing out on valuable resources, information, applications and development. I hope that I can set up my very own InfoCentre which can allow women and children to browse the internet, apply for grants and scholarships, read and learn - currently there is no such an establishment.
By the way- The top blogger in the competition was a young female from Cameroon, who blogged in French -and thank goodness there are online 'translation' tools we can use to communicate with online for which I now want to learn French!
As I read in an email subscription post for mWomen: Where Mobile Tech and Women Intersect it stated "If we focus on closing the digital gender gap by promoting mobile use and ownership by women we could dramatically improve development impacts."
I believe in this statement.
In the developing world, mobile technology is what is advancing and bringing internet access to many rural parts of our communities and people, use of laptops and computers are still very limited - by educating and empowering women in the right way on how to utilise this technology to become a resourceful tool in their personal, spiritual, professional and for what they want to achieve - we will see a great impact - as my blog states - Educate a women. Educate a Family. Thus we empower more women in Technology, we empower families too.
So to answer the question right at the beginning - It has. Internet has empowered me to great levels unimagined.
Thank you World Pulse for giving us the opportunity to share our voices to make a difference.