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Digital Age

March 24, 2010

My grandfather, whom I love very very dearly, has a strange habit of going somewhere to ask a question when a phone call could achieve the same result. If he sees an ad in a newspaper for a play he wants to see, then he drives to the box office and orders a ticket. He doesn’t think to call and ask about availability or make a reservation. He will drive to the doctor’s office, pop into my Mom’s office or show up at our house. He’s 85 and a creature of habit. This idiosyncracy isn’t going to change.

When someone needs information in Cambodia, they call a friend. One of our weavers needs a second opinion regarding surgery so I asked Sokchea to contact two Western clinics to inquire about opthalmology services. We had contact information for one of the two clinics. I’m pretty sure that I mentioned to google the name of the second clinic in order to find the phone number.

I asked Sokchea for a status update and received an e-mail with the following response, “I don’t know how to contact the hospital, but I will call my friend who lives in Phnom Penh to get their phone number.” Now, I’m scratching my head. Will this friend magically know the clinic? And if he doesn’t, then what will he do? Will he drive up and down the streets of Phnom Penh looking for the clinic? Will he shout the name of the clinic from the rooftops? And when he finds the clinic, will he walk in the door and ask them for their phone number? Surely, this is not the most efficient way to find information.

I turned to my very best friend, Google. I entered the name of the clinic + Phnom Penh. Bang. Instant. The first search result was the website. I mean, if you’re reading this then you probably understand the virtues of Google and internet searches.

Sokchea is in his 30s. He works on a computer daily. Unlike my grandfather, he knows how to use the internet. The question is: how do I get him (and others like him) to embrace the digital age?

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. March 25, 2010 5:13 am

    Interesting perspective.

    I’m new to your blog.. trying to catch up on what you’re doing in Cambodia. I have the impression from your blog and flickr that you’re establishing an NGO there, working with silk projects.

    I’ve been to Cam twice, two summers in a row, and I’m preparing for my 3rd visit in July.

    • March 25, 2010 8:32 am

      Hi Jewel,

      I’m here as a program manager to launch a small business (which will sell cotton ikat home decor and fashion accessories) through the help of a local ngo. This is my first time in Cambodia – I made the move having never been here before. But, I’m loving it!

      Thanks for reading,
      Leigh

      • March 28, 2010 5:40 am

        Very cool! I’m glad it’s going well for you! Look forward to reading more. 🙂

  2. Conor Muirhead permalink
    March 26, 2010 6:06 pm

    Its all about maintaining relationships. Your computer cannot help you out when you’re in a “real life” bind like a friend can.

    • March 26, 2010 11:25 pm

      Conor – I do understand the value of maintaining relationships. And a friend is certainly most helpful in certain situations. If we weren’t being Cambodia specific, then I’d argue that the internet is one tool to help maintain relationships.

      But, since we are being specific to Cambodia, I guess my question would be: Is there a way to maintain relationships while also embracing more effective methods to gather information?

      • Conor Muirhead permalink
        March 27, 2010 12:26 pm

        Hmmm yes, im sure that there is haha. But, I also think that many other things (outside of hospitals, hotels, some restaurants, etc) could not be found online in Cambodia. Maybe with such fast development out here people just havent adjusted to these other forms of gathering information?

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