My encounter with the internet started in my first year(2002) at the Polythecnic, then my late elder brother opened an email for me , so the family can get in touch with me while in school, because then I had no mobile phone. Checking my mail was always very difficult because the cost of accessing it at the cyber-café was high and the café attendant always felt like a small god. So I decided in my heart to learn how to use the computer and the internet by all means. After that decision, I will go the cyber café, instead of asking the café attendant to help me check my mail, I will pay for browsing time, lets say 1 hour and try to use the computer and internet myself, if I encounter any challenge, I will ask the person sitting by me to help or the cyber-café attendant. I did that frequently until I learnt how to use the computer and internet, I still learn every day, because there is always something new.
The internet has played a major role in my life, because I do most of my business online. I run a cyber café, in this café I help people do any online related job. I own a Mobile Messaging website (Bulk SMS) called www.zoomsmsng.com ,through this website churches send messages to their members mobile phones, schools to their pupils parents, small businesses like boutiques and hotels send sms alerts to their customer’s mobile phones to inform them of new arrivals or new events taking place.
A very important technology company that has helped me a lot on the internet is GOOGLE. I learnt how to create blogs through google, now I teach people how to create blogs. Also through a training I got from Enterprise Development Center in Lagos Nigeria, on getting Nigerian Businesses online by GOOGLE. I learnt how to create mini websites and now I earn income from creating websites for other small businesses.
Also I got trained on how to use social media to drive sales and succeed in business through EDC/ IFC partnership with IBM WOMEN CHALLENGE 2012. I was one of the 50 women chosen in Nigeria to be mentored on social media for one year by IBM Staffs. Through this eye opening experience using social media platforms I was able to recruit almost 100 mobile money agents nationwide without them seeing me, only about 10 have seen me physically and they pay to register through my bank account, the rest only communicate to me through emails and phone calls. All most all my business contact, came from my posts online.
As a woman learning how to use the computer and access the internet is very important.
Women need to be encouraged to use the internet , by empowering them economically, an adage say “ a hungry man is an angry man”. If a woman has enough income to to feed and cater for her family, it will be more easy for her create time and learn. And also pay for internet services.
Some factors mitigating women from accessing the internet includes;
- They think it is hard to learn how to use the computer and internet.
- Ability to create time to learn how to use the internet.
- Some are intimidated by men in the cyber-café.
- They have not enough income to pay for internet service, etc
To enable more women access the internet, I suggest the following;
- Women needs to be empowered economically, they need to have income generating businesses or jobs, to enable them afford the cost accessing the internet.
- We need to have more training centers, to train them for free or at an affordable price.
- We need more offline campaigns, to tell these women about the huge benefits of accessing the internet.
- Technology companies and Telco’s need to make the cost of accessing the internet cheap and also make more affordable internet enabled phones, laptops and desktops.
I don’t believe in an only women cybercafe, because we have a lot to learn from the men, I have learnt a lot about the internet/computer from men close to me. Also cyber café’s afe phasing out in Nigeria, because the cost of generating power and inter access is very high( most café’s you cannot download heavy files or go on you tube). Another challenge for café’s is the high penetration of internet enabled phones.
The future is MOBILE.
In my foundation from march 2014, we will start helping the women we train get online by
- Training them on how to use the computer.
- Training them on how to use the internet.
- Making them come online by opening emails for all of them and introducing them to world pulse.
- Teaching them on how to take their business online.
- Showing them the huge benefits of accessing the internet.
At Mobile Money Biz Loan for Women, we train women to have vocational skills E.G making of liquid soaps, disinfectants ,petroleum jelly etc FOR FREE so that they can cater for their family.
Also we make the banked by registering them for mobile money, through their mobile phones, their phone numbers becomes their account numbers. They are trained on how to manage their business,trained on financial literacy and on how conduct financial transactions through their mobile phones, save into the mobile account etc. We intend to start giving them loans with little interest rate to sustain or start their business, as soon as we get the funding to do this.
I believe collectively through all our efforts as women, we can get more women online but first they need to be empowered economically(have businesses or jobs that generates income for them).
Okocha Nkem.WWW: Women Weave the Web