In conversation with Dayn Amade, founder of the Community Tablet in Mozambique
The Community Tablet is a digital trailer that aims to bridge the digital gap in Mozambique and in Africa. The mobile trailer brings tablets into rural communities, allowing members within these communities to participate in the digital space. The mobile trailer also runs campaigns on financial literacy, education and health by connecting community members to experts in these respective fields.
Tell us more about your initiative and what inspired you to start the Community Tablet?
We are living in a digital era but most of us still do not have access to the internet and technology. So I created this project five years ago and the idea was to include communities that were digitally excluded. The whole idea was to go to the communities with my trailer and digitally educate them on a range of topics such as health and agriculture, which helps to empower these communities.
I feel that communities need to be empowered very quickly because they are very far behind. Our infrastructure also serves as two-way communication. In Africa, we have a lack of infrastructure and electricity and with our unit, it makes it possible to go into these communities and provide them with access to the internet and digital tools.
The trailers have tablets that allow community members to have two-way conversations with doctors who provide consultations and information about health. The two-way allows for a group of people, who listen and talk to experts from various fields. Our unit has multiple purposes, where we can have agriculture projects, health projects and do e-learning. With e-learning, we will do a video call with a teacher, who will teach virtually and after the classes, the students submit quizzes and the idea here is to find out whether these students understood what they were taught and this enables us to have feedback on what we are doing. This infrastructure can go anywhere because it is powered by solar panels, which means that we are not dependent on a generator or electricity.
We believe that we can bridge the digital divide. But not only in Mozambique, but around the world. We have registered our units in many countries around the world. South Africa is one of them and in most of the African countries. We registered in China, the USA, Europe, Brazil, India, and many others.
What are some of the challenges that you have faced?
When I started to go to communities and for community members, this was something new and people were afraid. Like, what is this? What is this coming to do to us? But we changed our approach with the community, for example before Covid, we would have nice local music and people started to see us as a friend and not their enemy. The second thing we did before we went into the community was that we worked together with a university in Mozambique, particularly the faculty of anthropology and sociology. Because in order for us to approach them in a correct way, one of the most important issues to understand is the culture and the habits of a specific community.
One of the challenges that we had, in the beginning, was that the community did not know how to use the tablets properly. Another challenge we faced was sometimes the children in the communities would try to damage the tablets and we would have to replace these tablets. It was not easy, but we managed to overcome them.
What impact do you think your organisation has had in Mozambique?
In some communities people would use mosquito nets for fishing and what happens when you fish with these mosquito nets, you don’t catch that many fish. So we went to some of these communities and we explained that these mosquito nets were not appropriate to catch fish and it was not safe as these nets are for mosquitoes. After we engaged them, people started to change their behaviour in those specific communities. The malaria rates dropped and communities were able to catch enough fish. Another impact is financial education. Many people in the communities are in agriculture, fishing, and the money they make, they don’t bank it because they think it will take them one to two hours to bank it.
With COVID are you still able to go into the communities?
We still go to the communities, but now we have to go with the Ministry of Health team because it’s compulsory for us to follow the protocols and isolate the perimeter. The Ministry of Health checks people’s temperature and ensures that everybody has masks. Covid has affected our operations, for example before the pandemic we used to have 500 people come to the trailer but now we only have 200 people. We also produced and disseminated an informational video about Covid which explained to communities what is Covid and how to wash their hands.
What does #DIYAfrica mean to you?
There is this saying that you have to solve your problems, nobody’s going to come and solve your problems for you. So if you are not going to take the lead, you can’t just sit and wait for the answers to be given to you, you have to face the challenges and reflect. I think the major thing that I have learned in regards to ‘do it yourself’ is about self-reflection. You have to reflect, you have to know what kind of story you want to tell the world or your community and nobody’s going to do it for you.