Ben is the facilitator for the PEP process in Ogongora (and other local villages), so I grabbed the chance for a chat with him yesterday about mobile phone usage, and what it has changed about village life.
It has become quite clear this week that phones are being used in the villages, and have improved the situation in small but significant ways, but phones are expensive, and usually individual villagers have other priorities, particularly education – which is seen as a way out of the poverty cycle.
Pentecostal Assemblies of God (PAG) provides each pastor with a mobile phone (not a smart phone – the talk function is more important). It does allow the national organization to contact each of their pastors quickly, but most look after around 5 villages, so someone in the village also has responsibility for another phone (otherwise there’s no one to talk to). Ben indicated that the main purpose of the phones is easier communication between the villages, rather than the national office.
Ben, in his work as a facilitator types up a report of progress in the villages on a laptop that PAG have provided him with. He then has to get this printed and post it, as he doesn’t yet have a modem. If he wants to use the internet it’s a 100km round trip, and then a cost of around 1000UGS (about 25p) per hour for internet usage. If he’s going on church business – e.g. some research that ‘s required (the internet being easier to access than books) he can use the motorbike that’s also been provided, otherwise he has to get public transport, which costs around 10,000UGS each way.
When using the internet it’s mostly for research and emails – and also for banking – which he says greatly increases safety – before he had to cycle around with large quantities of cash in his pocket – now he can bank at the start, and withdraw at location… He knows what Facebook is, but hasn’t used it.
I didn’t get the promised chat with Odiirah yesterday as we all had a nap, but we’ve still got time – and I want to ask her what it’s like in her role as Comms for the Pentecostal Assemblies of God (3rd biggest church in Uganda after Anglican, Catholic)