Voices from Africa – Victoire Ngounoue in Buea, Cameroon

Victoire Ngounoue

Victoire Ngounoue is a young scholar with a postgraduate Diploma in Education and a BSC in Women and Gender Studies. She has worked in the implementation of the Ambassadors’ Girls’ Scholarship Programme in the southwest of Cameroon and has written an article on “Mentoring: a Strategy for the Retention and Empowerment of Girl Children in Educational Institutions in Cameroon. This letter expresses her point of view regarding the take up of ICT in education …

Dear conference organisers,

I am a sociologist; I like to discover and to learn about different cultures. Unfortunately, this requires a lot of finance and for some citizens of developing countries, like me, it is unaffordable.

In relation to ICT, I have to admit that in Cameroon, the government and private stakeholders invest a lot in the use of information communication technology, be it phones (mobile or not), computers (connected to the internet or not), or radio. For example, the government has equipped a number of schools with computers, which some cases are connected to the Internet.

In the private sector, you have many “cyber cafes” coming up. For example, about five years ago, in Yaoundé (the political capital) you paid 2000 FCFA ($4) per hour for internet use. In Buea, where I live, we paid 1000FCFA ($2). Today I hear it is 500FCFA ($1) per hour in Yaoundé while in Buea, we are at 300FCFA ($0.6) – less than one dollar. This may be because Yaoundé is a big town with a lot of administrative departments, etc., while Buea is a small town that grew up thanks to the existence of the University, which brought in affluence from the university student community. As a result, a lot of private bodies invested in ICT and with competition, prices fell. In fact, there was a drastic fall two years ago when the University itself opened a “cyber café” on campus with good and comfortable infrastructure and put its price for internet use at 200FCFA per hour. The problem now is the connection. It is not constant and when it is, it is very slow. You may take 20 minutes just to struggle to have access to your Yahoo! mail.

But I want to say that the community lacks information. People need to be informed, for example, about the different uses they can make of the Internet. Many say they know about the Internet, but this often means nothing but the use of yahoo.com or yahoo.fr for email or the use of messenger for online communication. In fact it is difficult in all “cyber cafés” to have a free computer after 4 pm. And when you go round, you see that everybody is online with somebody through a “messenger”. From my experience with the computer, I know it can be of great use when one knows how to manipulate it. This is the same with the Internet and even with mobile phones.

For example, my mother only knows the “yes” key on her phone. This is because she is over seventy. When we were training her to use it, we noticed that she always blocked the phone when manipulating it. As a result, she was only instructed to master the “yes” key, so as to be in contact with her children. Furthermore, she only knows how to do this on a Nokia phone, which is the first brand she got used to. With any other brand, she is completely blank and confused.

A lot of Yahoo! subscribers do not know that with the internet they can do a lot of things of benefit to themselves and to their society. I believe that, just as there are campaigns on the fight against HIV/AIDS, there should equally be campaigns to inform the public on the use and importance of ICT for development.

Sorry if my mail is too long today.

You know, while urban areas strive to follow up the path of some Western societies (because I know and have watched on television that there also suburbs out there), rural areas are left out with little or no achievement at all. Wouldn’t it be fair if everybody could experience and benefit from the fruits of development?

I am lucky to have light and water in my village. With these basic facilities available, somebody could open a computer training centre and become affluent. I have noticed that a lot of students – and some parents – are not ignorant regarding ICT with particular reference to the Internet. But for them to check their mails (which is the least thing they know they can do with the Internet), they have to move during weekends into a neighbouring town, which takes thirty minutes by car.

Not too long ago (last week), I had the testimony of a friend in a discussion, telling us how in school, he learned about computers without ever seeing one. The person in fact knows all the parts and functions of a computer, but had never seen one before coming to Buea!

If we are to use ICT for development and be efficient, the population needs to be informed of the importance and potentialities of those technologies. It also requires access to a conducive environment created to stimulate interest in ICT (e.g. meeting basic needs of the needy population…) so that development can be enjoyed by all.


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