Monday, April 1, 2013

Technology - good, bad, and ugly

I remember the first online scam I received. It was from a recent professional acquaintance. It said Bill Gates was giving away his money; Microsoft was testing technology that tracks e-mails, so all I had to do was forward that e-mail, and I would get $125,000 for every person I sent it to. And I confess (hey, give me a break, I was in my mid-teens), at first I could hardly contain my excitement, thinking of all the troubles that money would solve for me. But by the time I finished reading the e-mail, I was thinking waaaait... this is too good to be true. I mentioned it to my Dad, who immediately scoffed, "That scam has been around as long as the Internet."

I also remember my first sexual solicitation online. I was even younger then; just twelve or thirteen. It came straight to my inbox, not the junk folder of the account my parents had just recently let me have. Fortunately, the subject line from the stranger was creepy enough that I didn't open it; I just told my parents, who even though they had known this stuff was out there, were troubled to see it reach me.

If you do anything online, you know how much trash is out there, of many kinds. Trash that can destroy your files, steal your identity, scam your friends in your name, addict you to the LED screen, and worse. Technology with all its implications is coming quickly into Africa too, and the parents are largely unprepared for it. Christie, our Nigeria director, has told us several stories to this effect:

An elderly woman came to my house in tears. “Welcome Mama”, I greeted her with concern, “what is the problem”? She narrated her story:
"We have been experiencing this problem of money disappearing in my family for about seven years now. Recently, the problem extended to our bank account. Somebody stole almost all our money in the bank, but after few days, the person texted us confessing that he has been the one stealing our money, even in the house. Christie, How? He said, he has been using spiritual means, using our son’s face to do the stealing. Christie, how possible it is to steal using somebody’s face?"
The woman does not know how ATM cards work because she is ignorant about technology. Apparently, their son stole the money in the bank using their ATM cards, since he was the one that activated the cards for his parents. He later sent this false confession to confuse his ignorant parents that it was somebody using his face in the spiritual realm to steal from his parents. It broke my heart to know that many parents are trapped by their children's knowledge of technology to practice evil. They are watching a lot of junks from the media and are taking advantage of their parents' ignorance to engage in evil acts.

Another incident was when a student stole my colleague's daughter’s cell phone and texted to all the contacts on the phone pretending to be the owner asking people to send him credit. Many people responded by sending credits to the thief, not knowing it was not the real owner that was asking for help.

Parents buy expensive technological gadgets for their children without knowing the uses, some use their expansive smart phones to watch porn movies, and some use theirs for one evil or the other. We were in the church service one day and a young lady was busy watching some dirty movies on her cell phone. Because I have knowledge about technology, I knew what she was doing. I rebuked her and reported her to her parents. They did not know she has been doing that, because she always told them she reading her Bible through her cell phone.

Women in Africa need to know to some extend how technology can help and destroy their children. They do not need to go to school to acquire some qualifications to do that.

With the Mothers and Media seminar, that is just what we hope to do.