What’s up? WhatsApp!
I am thrilled! Technology is once again rocking my world! In a tech/cellphone/screen-saturated culture we can sometimes forget that for Spirit in Action cellphones and their applications are nothing short of a miracle!
When Del first started Spirit in Action in 1996 – 20 years ago! – he was writing letters back and forth to his friends around the world. An airmail letter could take weeks to arrive in Kenya. Even if the person responded right away, Del might not receive the reply until a month after sending his initial letter.
Email sped up the conversation. When I started working with Spirit in Action eight years ago, I could write an email and have a response in a few days. That interaction still required the person in Kenya to go to an internet cafe to respond.
And now…..I can communicate almost instantaneously through the amazing technology of WhatsApp!
A WhatsApp conversation with Naomi this week.
What’s the Difference?
WhatsApp is a phone app that requires very little data to send text and photo messages. No more international texting charges! I am now one of WhatsApp’s almost billion worldwide users, along with Naomi, Wambui, Canaan, and Jeremiah, four of our Small Business Fund Local Coordinators in Uganda, Kenya, and Malawi. Cellphones are relatively inexpensive in Africa (as I have written about here) and while someone in Malawi might check email only once a day or once a week, they always have their phones with them.
Grace’s shop in the Manyamula Market is connected to the new electricity lines in town and so she provides phone charging services for a small fee.
It’s not to say that I never use email for Spirit in Action anymore. Now when I’m waiting for an email response I can WhatsApp message the recipient and urge them to check their email! Also, the messaging back-and-forth is more like a conversation, so it’s helpful for developing a closer relationship with our partners.
WhatsApp’s technology allows users to send photos without taking up a lot of data, thus making it easy and affordable. I now routinely receive photos of SBF report forms – taken on smartphone cameras and sent through WhatsApp. The process before? A coordinator would have to take the forms to the internet cafe, paying for scanning services and internet time to email the PDFs to me. Or, they’d send the physical forms to me in the mail, costing international postage rates and taking weeks to arrive.
Do you understand now why I’m thrilled?!