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Tuesday, June 15, 2004

The story of Philemon part I

It is twilight on a cold winters evening in Mamelodi east, Philemon has just climbed out of the Taxi in Mandela street when his eye catches a large crowd gathering outside the community hall. A smartly dressed man is holding up all sort of strange gadgets and gesturing to the crowd. Philemon is curious and begins walk closer, on further investigation, he sees that the man is talking about a computer that only costs R300 called the Biko I. He is also waving around some strange thing that looks like a drain pipe which he says will help you to connect to a digital community network called ubuntu-digital. With this, he claims, you can help your children with their schoolwork, look for jobs, Talk to other people in the network for free – no more expensive “pay as you go” cards, get legal advice, send letters to friends and relatives who also have a computers – he says the sky is the limit – you can even think up your own ways of using it to create new business. Philemon takes one of the pamphlets the man is handing out and begins reading it as he walks back to his small RDP house in block E of an area called Sundown valley. He sees that the computer plugs into a normal TV screen – he begins to imagine his children fighting to use the Biko I while he wants to watch the 7PM news, maybe he should pay the extra R200 for a separate colour monitor. He reads over a section on installing the ubuntu-digital network which costs R250 for the equipment and is pleased to see that there will be training every Tuesday at the community centre for people who need help installing it – apparently to bring down the cost you can make your own aerial out of a pringle can. It says that if you can see the community centre mast then you can connect to the network, if you can’t you need to get a neighbour involved who you can see and who can see the community centre mast. He begins to walk quicker now, as the excitement builds and he pictures telling his wife Florrie and 3 children about this exciting new device. He has already started calculating in his head that if he saved R100 a month he could buy the Biko I in 3 months and install the Ubuntu-digital network after 6 months.

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