I think that’s what they call uncomfortable…

Yesterday was my first trial run of my lecture on digital inclusion, which I have given the exciting title of “Digital Imperialism: What Not to Do”. It’s kind of a sassy title, which is my goal, to get people to think about the importance of community based and owned technology. I was giving this lecture to the professors from several African universities that were here for a conference. The speakers were really inspiring and I felt right at home with their messages.

It’s my turn to speak and my timeslot has been reduced to 15 minutes instead of 30 because academics tend to go beyond their timeslots and we are at this point more than 45 minutes behind schedule. I dive right in and one of the things I gave as an example was the story of my mentee and his journey to graduate school at the African campus of an American based university. I talked about the need to keep the talent within Africa and not lose those students to multi nationals – which is a problem. I didn’t get deeply into the details and only referenced that this was a trip of firsts for him. On my way out of the auditorium, this man comes running up to me and says quite quickly “I want you to know who I am. I am the director of that university in Africa. We are definitely not encouraging those students to leave. I want to know the name of your mentee.” OOPS.

Okay, number 1, he clearly didn’t hear what I was saying because I was referring to the methods that people find these students, like LinkedIn etc. Number 2, might I suggest that instead of you saying something that sounds very much like the “Do you know who I am?” paparazzi speech, you say something more like “I am so and so. I’d like to hear more about your thoughts on our program and what leads you to think that way” . This person is also an American so I feel comfortable saying that culturally, we probably understand each other a little.

I did give him my mentee’s name. Because it’s important for them to know that he has someone who stands behind him, externally and who has an understanding of things work. This director had a few other uninformed things to say, like talking about my employer as if he were the expert. I let those go because we were approached by another attendee who asked me for my contact info so we could talk further. 😉

I need to tell my mentee what happened so he is aware if he gets asked any questions. While I am deeply concerned that I might have caused a problem for him, at the same time, I feel like yesterday my mom was really close by. I feel like her trouble maker legacy is really present right now 😉

It’s not the first time this week I have had some interesting encounters with the academic world. On Wednesday morning at the ass crack of dawn, I was picking up the rental car at the airport and waiting for the interns. We were due in Groningen at 9am to talk to a movie theater full of IT students, from the vocational school. Some 400 of them.  Well, it’s a good thing I don’t get outwardly nervous! The talk was absolutely not what I expected, which was great. The videos I planned to show had no sound due to the movie theatre system, the students asked really interesting and tough questions – especially around ethics- where I was in complete disagreement with their teachers. They also had the chance to talk to the interns which was really great. Afterwards, one of them came up to me and told me in complete seriousness that he could understand me and my vocabulary and accent were very good. However, my grammer was terrible and he felt that I really should do something about that. I wasn’t quite sure what to say to that so I asked him what he recommended as an improvement tool. That seemed to stump him a bit and then he finally suggested I should get a book and study. So, I will take that to heart.

I’m glad he said because he means he was really listening. 😉

In the afternoon, we were at the university, meeting with their computer science student’s association. It was over in 30 minutes after they told us that they have a pay to play model. I think they were rather startled to hear that we didn’t have any interest in their students and wanted nothing from them. The point of the work we do is to make connections between people having knowledge and people needing it. It was quite a contrast. One city, two educational institutions approximately 7 kilometers apart and a world of entitlement difference between the two.

I’ll take my chances with the vocational students.

We passed Marum both ways. I didn’t stop, only tapped on the window and said “love you, Mom”. My intern in the front seat, in charge of keeping me awake, asked me lots of thought provoking questions and wanted to know more. It certainly kept me awake and I think he was surprised that I answered his questions. Some of them were really hard, like thinking about what pictures you take when someone is ill and how do you remember them in your head?

This evening the interns are presenting their work at the Global Good Jam so I will head out in the rain to go and support them. Haven’t told them I am coming so they won’t feel under supervision.

There are plenty more things I want to write about from this week, like the whole good bye to Big C evening and the other things I have been working on but there is a moment of dry weather right now, which has been pretty scarce this week, so I need to get the boys out the door no! More later!



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