Technology is a useful servant but a dangerous master.

Christian Lange

It is interesting to consider how the young African women and girls we work with are introduced to digital technology. A lot will depend on the context of their first contact with a mobile phone or the internet. Was it in the context of the home or a group of friends? Was it associated with study or with entertainment or leisure?

These considerations are especially important keeping in mind:

  • The fact that the coronavirus pandemic has obliged compulsory online learning and access for many young people.
  • The fact that many young people – even those who are economically disadvantaged can afford second-hand or refurbished phones which have flooded the markets.


Awino is a first-year student at Timbui Vocational Training College. She grew up in the neighbouring slum. She is the third of seven siblings. Her mother, a domestic worker, has struggled hard to raise them after her father abandoned them when she was ten. Her older brothers have casual jobs in other slums, and her younger brother dropped out of school when he was 15 and disappeared. She is on scholarship and is every day thrilled by the unexpected opportunity to study that she now has. When she came home with her admission letter, her overjoyed mother shared her story with her employer who gave her her old smartphone to give to Awino. Awino’s mother is illiterate. She carefully wrapped the phone in an old newspaper and gave it to Awino when she got home. Awino reverently unwrapped the newspaper. The phone had a cracked screen and was badly scratched. She had never been so happy. At school, she signed up her name under the growing list of those who had access to the online learning platform. Over the lunch break, her friends helped her to set up a Whatsapp and Facebook profile.

Reflection Questions: Looking at life through Awino’s eyes

  1. Think of Awino’s background and circumstances. Do you know many young women like Awino?
  2. Do you think Awino is prepared to be active online safely?
  3. What activities seem to take up most of her time online?
  4. Awino’s mother is completely disconnected from her online world. Is this common with the youth that you work with?
  5. Awino is very happy with the new horizons open to her. How would you engage Awino and speak to her about her online presence? Can you share in her joy and outline the positive aspects of the means now available to her?

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