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I was chatting with a friend of mine yesterday evening on Facebook. She contacted me because she was very interested in participating in the TechChange courses that I wrote about in my last blog post.

Her first question – ‘Are the courses only available in English.’ ‘Yes,’ I said, ‘but TechChange is just getting started. It’s quite possible that in the future they could offer courses in other languages.’

‘OK,’ said my friend, ‘that’s great. We’ll be waiting for that.’

Now, my friend speaks enough English that she could get something out of these courses, but there are other factors that seemed to her even more difficult to surmount. And the sad thing is that these other factors are internal factors.

1) On-line purchasing

‘Our problem with registering for the courses,’ said my friend, ‘is that they cost $250/$350….’

Hm, I thought, ‘So the cost is too high?’

‘No,’ she said, ‘the cost is fine. But here [at our organization] we are not allowed to purchase anything online. Purchasing on-line is considered EXTREME POSSIBILITY FOR FRAUD.’ Then she laughed ‘jajajaja.’ I imagine it was a bitter and frustrated laugh.

So here my friend has a budget and great interest in being trained, but can’t sign up because at her organization, they are not allowed to make on-line purchases.

‘Wow,’ I said. ‘Do you want me to send an email or something to vet the organization?’

‘Nope,’ she said. ‘It’s just their policy. You can’t purchase on-line. Not even if it’s much cheaper, it’s exactly what you want and need, and it’s not available in your country.’

2) Management buy-in

‘Oh,’ I continued. ‘Can you use your own credit card and then get the organization to reimburse you?’

‘Ay,’ my friend said. ‘No one will support us with that, especially an on-line course of this type of thing that they have never heard about and they don’t understand. These courses would be just what we need for some of our staff who are very interested in getting trained up to use some of these new tools. But it’s so hard to get management to see the utility of this.’

Then my friend wrote in all capitals ‘LINDA, YOU KNOW THIS. PLEASE FIND A WAY TO COME AND HELP US WITH ICTS! We need to know this and no one in our management believes it’s useful to our work.’

She continued, ‘We’re only at the beginning of this. We (staff) know only the very basics. We have funds for training but we can’t get anyone to see that this [ICTs] is a priority. Ay, it’s all very complex.’

3) Blocking social media sites

We kept chatting. She said ‘oh, ja ja, and please write your blog in other languages so we can share it around. We need to be updated on these things. At least we are allowed to access blogs.’

‘I will try…’ I said.

‘Do you know,’ she said ‘We can’t access any social media sites from the office. They are all blocked. We have a YouTube channel but none of us can watch it at the office. Someone created a Twitter account but all staff are blocked from Twitter and Facebook at the office. Not even our managers can access it. If we want to see anything we have to go to an Internet cafe or to have Internet at home.’

Argh.

I understand that there are risks to purchasing on-line, and I understand that some staff might abuse social media if they are free to use at work, and I understand that there are bandwidth issues in some countries, but this conversation made me very sad.

My friend works at a decent-sized organization and I assume this must be the policy across the organization. I wonder if the organization has considered that its policies are cutting into its own ability to advance its own cause and its own development work in today’s world.

Ver este post en español!

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