Living in our own worlds, working hard to maintain our lifestyles, one tends to forget about those who have less. Internet or data access is something I have grown used to, without thinking too much about what my options would be if I did not have prepaid data for my iPhone, iPad with 3G and a 2 meg uncapped ADSL connection from Afrihost at home.
Three weeks ago, I was reminded of how lucky I am. While on location in Johannesburg’s CBD, I needed a place to plug in the computer system I use to transfer large data recordings from the digital camera used to film the TV show we were shooting. We found a dirty looking and foul smelling Internet cafe. Whilst setting up my equipment, I thought “who would use this place?”
During my time there, I noticed lots of different types of people coming in to use the cafe’s Internet connection, at a cost of R5 per hour. When I walked through the cafe to stretch my legs, I used the opportunity to glance at the different people’s computer screens.
There was a well dressed gentlemen looking through fashion websites, then there was another guy, whom I assumed was a student, as he was constantly on his mobile phone talking to different people at times, asking when a payment will reflect in his account as he still needed to pay fees and buy books and informing another person that he will transfer monies as soon as it clears.
I also saw a lady with a baby on her lap sitting with a man who was doing online betting. In fact, I saw a few men who came in and out of the cafe to do online gambling.
Just before the Internet cafe closed, and as I was busy packing up my equipment, a mature lady came in to the store and asked the Nigerian person, whose father owned this Internet cafe, if he would help her to send an email to a family member. Since she was dictating and the guy was typing it, I could hear each and every word she said.
What I witnessed was very beautiful and sobering.
I now know how lucky I am to have all the different methods and the skills to use the different technology to stay in contact with all my family members and friends. I also have a bigger respect and appreciation of the value that such Internet cafes play for the communities who don’t have all the technological luxuries that we have.