Julia Zoo

Julia Zoo (eHomemakers): Julia received her BA with a dual major in Education and Sociology from Yonsei University in Seoul. She also attended Assumption University in Bangkok for two semesters as a transfer student in her sophomore year. After graduation she worked as a computer programmer for an IT service company in Seoul, Korea and interned at the United Nations ICT Task Force in 2006. Julia then received a Master’s degree in International Public Policy from New York University Robert F. Wagner School of Public Service, where she studied development policy for information communication technology for development (ICT4D).



The Taken-for-Granted

18 Jun

I thought I deserved a pat on my back when I did not forget bringing my universal A/C adapter with me to Malaysia– a brilliant invention that allows you to plug into virtually every electricity outlet in the world regardless of the shape of your plug. But on the first day of my work at eHomemakers’ home office, I realized that the weight of my adapter is simply too heavy to stay put in the electricity outlet; that I needed something else to hold it to make it work through.

And surprisingly (or not), it seems exactly like what is happening in Kuala Lumpur, around the buzzword of Information Communication Technology for Development (ICT4D). Here, everybody seems to have a mobile phone; local telecom companies offer Triple Play service that includes fixed line phone, wireless Internet connection and cable channels; and mobile phone carriers advertise their latest PDA pones – you name it. However, in contrast to this picture of burgeoning ICT sector in the capital, there are women like Kanesgawari and Fung Yee, eHomemakers’ Eco Basket weavers, who say ‘no’ with a shy smile when asked whether they have ever used the Internet.

Come to think of it, they have every reason to choose ICT as their solution to earn income for their family. They are living in the region probably with the world’s fastest speed of ICT development; and they can take care of their family (Kanesgawari is a mother of two Down syndrome children) while work at home through Internet.

But maybe the reason we don’t see it happening is that the heavy weight of entrance cost they have to pay upfront is simply too much, unless they get ‘other’ support to make it work for them. Sometimes it’s because they don’t have enough money to afford a computer or Internet connection, or sometimes because they had no opportunity to learn basic ICT skills since they couldn’t possibly leave their home, bound with all their motherly duties. These women are like living in an island with so little chance of communication with the world outside, even though they are desperately in need of more income and opportunity to work. But nobody seems to listen to their needs for access and think seriously about their lack of opportunity.

In remote rural areas, the isolation is somewhat universal; since everyone is deprived of access to communication and information, there at least exists a consensus that everyone should be given an opportunity. In urban regions like KL, however, the nature of isolation that the marginalized has to suffer is quite different, since it comes from the fact that their isolation is usually taken for granted. After all, they are only ‘homemakers,’ single moms, disabled or chronically ill, undereducated, extremely poor, or all of the above. As Ching Ching, the founder of eHomemakers, slapped in one of her columns, for many people, ICT for ‘homemakers’ is still “not sexy enough” to get the donors’ feet wet in the project.

However, what we usually don’t realize is that when those ‘homemakers’ talk about the need for Internet connection, it is not about luxury but about finding a way to survive. Living in the grey area of support, people like Kanegasawari and Fung yee are the ones who could get most benefit out of simple ICT literacy programs. They need other support to actually make the ‘information highway’ work for them – like I had to build a supporting block to hold my universal A/C adapter to stay plugged in the outlet to use my laptop.

Posted By Julia Zoo

Posted Jun 18th, 2007

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