Before getting involved with the Web Foundation I spent nearly a year traveling through Africa, Asia, and the South Pacific. During that time I had the chance to meet a lot of incredible people who faced tremendous hardships. What struck me most at the time was the way in which they refused to let their problems stop them from achieving their goals and, instead, chose to work hard in the hopes of opening up new possibilities for change. Over my next few posts I’m going to highlight some of the people that had a lasting impact on me and helped me realize why the Web will be such a powerful tool in enabling under-served populations to get what they so desperately want: the freedom to choose their own future.
The first of these inspirational people is Freddy Mafira, a priest in a small village outside Vic Falls, Zimbabwe. I met him in an internet cafe in Vic Falls and we quickly became good friends. He invited me to attend church with him the next morning and told me he would be helping with some elderly people in town if I wanted to come along. That next morning, Freddy delivered his first sermon in English and, with the help of the gentleman beside me, I did my best to sing hymns in Shona, their local language. After the service, we visited an old man who had attended church regularly until he’d suffered a severe stroke that left him unable to walk or communicate. Freddy delivered the day’s sermon just as he had each week since the man’s stroke. This willingness to go out of his way to inspire those around him and give hope to those most in need resulted in him having near-celebrity status. Walking through town it was clear that everyone knew Freddy as they waved, smiled, and greeted us at every turn.
After the visit, Freddy took me to his home and introduced me to his family. He had three children – Pride, Princess, and Praise – and took care of his sister who lost her husband years ago. Pride was born without a tibia bone in his right leg so had to be amputated. Then about four years old, he had outgrown his prosthetic limb and used makeshift crutches to assist his movement. I learned that to support his family, Freddy helped local fruit and vegetable producers sell to businesses in Vic Falls and Harare. During the days we spent together he often spoke about his desire to learn new languages (he already spoke about five) and skills. His mentality was that if he could continue to do, know, and communicate more, then he would open up new doors that might result in additional income to provide food and education for his family.
It was exactly this open-minded determination that made me realize the power that the Web could have for people like Freddy and those around him. By working with partners to enable local leaders to access and publish relevant content, tools, and services on the Web using computers and mobile phones, we can have a much broader and deeper impact in the community. Building on Freddy’s determination to open as many doors as possible, we can help him, and those like him, to create his own doors and then watch as he shows everyone around him how to do the same.
Freddy and I have kept in touch since we met in late 2007. Though his country continues to face many tough problems he remains as passionate as ever about the possibility of change. He recently told me about a new business venture he is planning in order to better support his family and community. He is gathering people together to start a computer center in his village so that they can access the Web, learn how to use email and word processing tools, and build their own websites. His ultimate vision is the same as ours and it can be summed up with one overused and under-appreciated word: empowerment.
June 16, 2009
Craig, love this story - a great reminder of the purpose. I think too that the human spirit of curiosity is a big piece of what is enabled through the web. Empowering people to follow their curiosity leads to solutions that matter for them and their communities. In the web I see us moving from skills/teaching toward shared experiences and discovery. This social aspect - shift in mindset - is a important piece of the web's role in our future. Exciting.Cheers,Michael
July 7, 2009
WTF is a "web foundation" that doesn't have a valid webpage? ok if it were a missing doctype or somethin,g ,but it's a BASIC syntax/nesting error. What should we expect for your "future of the web"?
July 20, 2009
Billy, you are totally right. A significant part of the Web Foundation team is coming from W3C, and we are considering validity as a critical point. We are doing our best to keep our page valid, and we are checking the home page regularly. But sometimes, some issues are appearing due mostly to the use of a CMS in which a typo in one module can break all the pages. We are for now a small team, and again doing our best, but you might find some pages which are still not valid. We are in the process of installing W3C logvalidator to get a weekly summary.So again, validity is critical, we know that, we support that, but it might always happen that some of our page are not valid, and in htat case, if you notice that before us, please just let us know and we will update itstephane
September 14, 2009
I know that this is the wrong place for this comment, but further to Billy's point, the prose of the pages on this site extends from edge to edge of my window (regardless of window width), so there is no left margin, and letters like L and B are flush up against the pixel boundary. Furthermore, a horizontal scroll bar is present that extends the page width by about 20%. there is nothing but whitespace in this extra scrolled region.
September 16, 2009
Nicholas: Thanks for pointing this out. Karl Dubost provided some helpful CSS tips, which I implemented this morning. I hope this fixes the problem. Let me know if not. We expect to have a completely new Website (but still under Movable Type) available within about 2 months.Cheers,Steve