A connected world among the disconnected

It took me three hours sitting at the back of the motorcycle to reach my destination. I was on my way to visit a local organisation in Nepal. For some years, this organisation has been attending the community of practice events which I helped organise in Bangkok. Now it was my turn to visit them after attending a week of conferences and conducting a training in Kathmandu. The air was thick, heavily covered with smoke. The pollution was forcing its way to my lungs. I didn’t have a helmet so I covered my head with a scarf. The traffic was crazy. I held tight on the metal railings under my seat as we skilfully maneuvered through the traffic. I did drive a motorcycle in Phnom Penh. It was crazy too but not this crazy.

I was welcomed by three staff at the office. There was also a young volunteer helping with producing educational materials. The office is on the second floor, small but sufficient for their need. As I sat at the office, the director of the organisation excitedly related to me their story, what they do, why they do what they do, what kept them going. They had accomplished a lot. There were numerous inspiring activities happening in their few years of existence. Then the director stopped in mid sentence and said, ‘We have done many things but we cannot tell the world about them.’

This phrase stayed with me for as long as I remember. Whenever I forget about it, it comes back to me when I read articles which says that we live in a connected world. Yes, we live in a connected world where social media and digital technology is becoming increasingly essential. But for some small, local, non-profit organisations this might not be the reality. We live a connected world but also among the disconnected. These organisations are aware of how important social media and digital technology is to their work. They know that the good use of social media fosters stronger relationships with stakeholders and with those who support their work. It is also a tool to advocate for their cause and to let others know the motivation behind their existence.

Social media can be inexpensive, as joining many of these online networks are free. But for many small, local, non-profit organisations, there are hurdles to overcome. One of these is not having a working internet connection at the office. The language of use in social media, and the technical know-how, are also significant hindrances. Many also lack time and manpower to concentrate on promoting their work on social media.

How can we as Communication for Development (CD4) practitioners help lessen the gap from being disconnected to being connected?

In my series of blog posts, I will be looking at the issues affecting the small, local, non-profit organisations in Asia in using social media and digital technology. I will also look for positive effects and good practices. Our next stop will be in Islamabad, Pakistan.