Free Internet Depends on Costly Laptops

As Rezwan mentioned back in May, Cristina Quisbert from the Rising Voices grantee project Voces Bolivianas was awarded an “International Activist Scholarship” to attend this year's BlogHer Conference in Chicago. Cristina was joined by Pilirani Semu-Banda from Malawi, Oluwatoyin Ajao from Nigeria, and Annie Zaidi from India.


Cristina Quisbert in El Alto, Bolivia

On her Spanish-language blog Cristina explained why she wasn't able to post much while in Chicago:

Ya me encuentro en Chicago con motivo de participar en otra version de la Conferencia de BlogHer. Esta es la primera vez que llego a este lugar, asi que muchas cosas son nuevas para mi. A modo de anectoda les comento que todo el hotel tiene acceso gratuito a internet en las habitaciones. Esa es una dicha total, tener internet gratuito y veloz, pero es una paradoja completa al mismo tiempo para mi, porque no tengo lo mas importante, una laptop, asi que escribo desde un pequeno restaurtant en el hotel que da internet gratis, siempre y cuando consumas algo y el ingreso al internet es con clave y con tiempo controlado. La clave que se supone tiene que funcionar no funciona, asi que tuve que prestarme de alguien su clave para poder usar.

Here I am already in Chicago to participate in the BlogHer Conference. This is my first time here, and so many things are new for me. As an anecdote I'll comment that the entire hotel has free internet access in the hotel rooms. That says it all: to have fast and free internet access. But for me it is also a complete paradox at the same time because I don't have a laptop. So I write from a small restaurant in the hotel that has [computers with] free internet access if you purchase something. The login is with a password and the amount of time you can spend online is controlled. The password which should work doesn't work, and so I've had to borrow someone else's in order to use it.

Cristina's note reminds us that a free internet connection still doesn't guarantee free internet access without the purchase of a costly computer. Fortunately the prices of so-called netbooks are falling every month, but most bloggers in the developing world still depend on their office computers, cyber cafes, or public libraries in order to participate online.

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Thanks to Twitter we know that Cristina has arrived home in Bolivia safely. Her session at BlogHer was reportedly a hit. As Barb from The Middle Way writes:

I happened to meet Cristina Quisbert from Bolivia at lunch on Friday, which changed my mind about my Saturday schedule. I am so glad I attended the International Activist session! These women reminded me that blogging can be more than an exercise in self-expression — it can truly help change the world.

Rock and Roll Mama agreed, though was disheartened to find some BlogHer participants choosing to instead attend sessions on branding, gossip and marketing. Wrong Shoes writes that she couldn't have been any more impressed with the session and, like expateek, lamented the fact that so many BlogHer attendees were more interested in Britney Spears.

For her part, Cristina continues her impressive writing. On World Pulse she has just recently published an in-depth history of the treatment of indigenous populations in Bolivia. Here is an excerpt:

Last time I was in Santa Cruz, a man shouted at me “¡Indian, go out!”. I had done nothing that could disturb anybody. Just to be an indigenous woman was enough for that man to treat me that way. However, those authorities and some people, who call the indigenous peoples as a wicked race or use other scornful words, forget that Human Rights Universal Declaration in its article 13 says that “Any person has the right to freely walk and to select its residence within the territory of any State”. This is an example of how certain behaviors are alive. In the Bolivian case, I think it is important to look behind to see where these come from.


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