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Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Technology for all

There is no doubting the fact that internet access is a key contributory factor to the progress of any country. This is particularly true for developing nations like Pakistan. Statistically speaking, internet usage in Pakistan is on the rise and there are no signs of it declining.

One stumbling block however is the availability of computers and facilities where people can browse the World Wide Web. Places that provide this facility for a fee in commonly referred to as ‘internet cafés’ in Pakistan. Internet cafés are mostly limited to urban centres and are frequented by people who do not have access to high-speed internet at home.

Internet cafés in the more conservative areas of Pakistan cater exclusively to the male population. Even in cities and larger towns, women frequenting internet cafés is considered a rare occurrence.

Sumaya Ibrahim lives in Quetta and has been running the ‘Amozgha Centre’ for some time now. The centre is popular among the women of the community, who attend the sewing classes that are taught there.

Quetta is a conservative city where women and men using the same internet cafés is frowned upon. Sumaya felt that one thing her city lacked was a place where women from the community could explore opportunities to become better equipped at use computers and to use the internet. She envisioned setting up an internet café inside the Amozgha Centre where computer literacy classes could also be taught.

Sumaya formed a youth group which she named ‘Amozgha Youth Group’ to raise funds for her project. The group reached out to affluent people of the community for financial support. The response they got was overwhelmingly positive. The group was successful in raising enough money to purchase our computers and one printer; and so the Computer Literacy and Internet Cafe for Females was established.

This is not merely an internet café for women, but it also functions as a learning centre where basic computer courses are taught to women. The centre is geared towards women who do not have a computer at home and cannot afford computer literacy courses. Classes were offered at a nominal fee. Special consideration was shown to members of the Hazaara community – a traditionally underprivileged group. Members of the Hazaara community are offered free of cost computer literacy classes at the centre.

The venture proved to be a popular one and soon Sumaya was faced with another predicament: how to accommodate all the applicants into computer literacy classes? Presently a two hour computer literacy class is taught every day and women are encouraged to make use of the internet café in the evening. The strong turnout is a source of encouragement to the youth group: “I would love to buy more computers in order to accommodate more people” says Sumaya.

The computer literacy centre and internet cafe provides the women of Quetta with a safe environment where they can learn together, and is a welcome addition to other skills taught at the Amozgha Centre.

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