Why is what we do here at Nerds Abroad so important? Is it worth the time, effort, costs, and stress to stretch out our hands, get a little dirty and do some hard work in these communities across the globe?
Obviously, we wouldn’t be here if the answer was “No”, but the definition of “worth our time and effort” may look different to different people. We do this because we love it, we’re gifted at it, and because we believe beyond a doubt, that what we are doing is directly influencing the quality of life, availability of opportunities, and global worldview of future decision makers.
The current generation of youth developing across our planet is one of the first to be fully immersed in a world that is globally connected. Communication is leaping forward; between cell phones, texting, wireless connectivity, and global social engagement, technology has created a worldwide “living room”, where vastly different communities are rubbing shoulders and trading information.
Many communities, however, will be marginalized if they aren’t able to stay part of the global move forward in communication. When tech gets buggy, slow, or shuts down altogether, it shuts out the portal these communities have to resources such as healthcare, networking, job hunting, education and more. It also closes a window from the outside in; a rural village may be in desperate need of help, whether that’s disaster response, humanitarian aid, or a plea for aid from injustice…it invites the world to a first-row-seat that may ultimately help resource aid from whatever portion of the 7 billion humans on our planet are watching.
These are “big picture” concepts, though. We’re not expecting that debugging a single computer in a mountain village is going to bring about global change. What we are hoping, expecting, and even now beginning see come to fruition, is for a small handful of people to learn how to be self-sufficient in technology problem-solving.
Take for example our TechBox program: aimed at developmental youth, ages 16 – 19, this toolkit is a resource for educators and their students to gain hands-on, real world experience with basic and fundamental technology. As students gain proficiency with these courses, they move on to more advanced and career-minded tech skills. This gives hope for future with dramatically broadened options for that student, and for the community as a whole.
This is where we step in; we treat it all as a “teaching a person how to fish” opportunity. Many time, it’s “good enough” to walk in to an obscure internet cafe and debug it, clean it up, run updates, replace components, and walk away feeling great that their internet is back up and running. This is well and good for the first six months to a year, but it won’t be long before those same bugs, viruses, damaged hardware, etc. begin to wreak havoc on the tech system and, once again, renders it unusable.
We want to walk away from communities and not need to come back. We want to create very real “in-house” technical support from the absorbent minds of the learning class, the youth of our planet. This turns out a profit for these communities, in that they are able to debug their own tech, to stay online and continue to have access to education services, healthcare, social engagement, etc. For the individual students, they are building real-world skill sets that, in a planet increasingly run by technology, will be vital in moving into paying jobs that will help influence the direction of generations to come.
So, while we may not see immediate results, the work we do at Nerds Abroad is critical in developing a class of developing youth committed to developing their communities through a greater understanding of technology, how it works, what it is capable of, and the intrinsic worth of being connected to the rest of the human race.