Smiles :-)

May 11, 2005 Comments Off on Smiles :-)

Cairo, Egypt

Seeing a huge smile on the face of an Egyptian telecentre trainer
was the best reward I could have hoped for, and a good reminder of why
I am in this game.

Visiting an IT Club (aka telecentre) called YES Giza in Cairo, I had
a chance to meet four young trainers and their manager Eng. Sohair El
Said Amira. They toured me around two of their centres, proudly showing
me computer labs, training rooms and, in one case, a view of the Nile.
With Arabic – English translation by Ghada Khalifa from Microsoft, they
also told me about the services they offered and the community they
work with.


As with many successful telecentres, YES Giza is a community organization that added in technology to supplement the services they already offer. YES offers employment counselling, support for young entrepreneurs, language training and, over the last few years, computer skills training and Internet access. The computer side of things was supported with an initial investment in hardware by Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, and has slowly woven into the rest of what YES does.

One key learning from the visit: Egyptian IT Clubs are a diverse lot. Before coming to Cairo, all I knew was that the government had helped establish 600 IT clubs – it sounded somewhat cookie cutter from the outside. But just like telecentres elsewhere, different organizations have taken the centralized program and run with it in their own ways, mixing computers and the Internet in with services like the ones YES Giza offers. Talking to Sohair, it was clear that a number of creative approaches had emerged.

Which brings me back to the smile. I was in a conversation with the first young trainer, asking whether or not he collaborated with other trainers and IT club staff. Big smile! "Yes, at the five other YES Giza sites." What about people in other IT Clubs in Cairo? Straight face. "No." Would that be useful, to connect up with others? Big smile again! "Yes, I learn so much, trade curriculum changes and stuff, with the other YES staff. We talk constantly. I would love to have more people to talk to like this."

Telecentre people are passionate people. But, often, they’re also isolated – only a few peers, or none at all. So, when the potential of a connecting up and networking with others who share their passion arises, there are big smiles. It’s like the idea of a telecentre party. Which makes me think that’s what we need to do: help people throw telecentre parties, everywhere, and often. Time to get cracking.

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