21 January 2008

Mind the Gap

Over the past week or so there has been an exchange of emails between some leaders in Africa that really demonstrates the need for Comms Teams such as AfriCom. It's also a good motivator for us to be proactively seeking solutions to the communication gap we have in YWAM. Internationally are we aware that there is a major gap in communication if as an organisation we consistently use the Internet as the primary means of communication?

One of our leaders in Mozambique (a nation where the work of YWAM is thriving and making a real difference in local communities) wrote this:
At a recent YWAM leaders wedding here I was able to catch up with a lot of YWAM staff and I casually asked them: how easy is it for you to get the prayer info from the internet. All of them said that it was not easy. I mentioned that there was a website where they could read about the things that God said from all our brothers and sisters all over the world, no one had been to the site and no one knew what was on it. Not because they did not want to but because it is not easy for them. Food for thought. So God is speaking in the mission but we are cut out of that?

YWAM's international leaders have recently initiated a monthly Day of Prayer for the global mission. Information has been sent out by email with instructions to register on a website for further communications. To quote our leader in Mozambique once more:
I received a lot of information [about the Prayer Day] and in my current capacity as acting National Director for Mozambique I tried my best to make sure that this information reached all our bases here, namely Dondo (40km out of Beira), Beira, Quelimane and Lichinga. Then I was asked to subscribe so that the senders of the info would continue to send it. They warned me that if I did not subscribe, then I would not receive the info again. To do this I needed to get on the Internet. I had to find another computer that was compatible with my cell phone to be able to do that. When that was done it took me the best part of the morning to fill in just a few line; connecting the way I do with my cell phone, it takes 6 -10 minutes just to move from one page to another. When I finished and sent the info, I thought 'Phew! Its done'. I was wrong. I then received a reply saying that having done that, I needed to go to another website to provide details like who I was etc. If getting onto the Internet was easy here, I would have done itgladly, but it is not. At that stage I realised that I needed the info for the January Prayer Day. I was desperate for the whole of Mozambique to participate in this great prayer initiative. I began to call the other bases to find out from some of them who are not in a setting as rural as mine if they would be able to access the website and register. To my horror, everyone was struggling to get through because of reasons ranging from poor connections, to the site displaying a page saying: PAGE NOT FOUND!

What is our response as a Comms Team for the continent? Should we print and mail information to the 100+ teams continent-wide? Aside from the expense of doing that, the postal services would mean that YWAM staff in Africa would be praying for information that everyone else covered the previous month. Then there's the question of whether feedback from prayer times around Africa would get back to the Prayer Day organisers if staff are unable to complete the feedback forms on the website. Sending text messages is another option - at least we could remind our staff in Africa that a Prayer Day is coming up and give them the key info points.

This is a hot topic at the moment given that our global magazine, the International YWAMer, is soon going from print to e-zine. What will this mean for YWAM staff around Africa, very few of whom will have the bandwith necessary to download such a communication piece?

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