Thank you to CEDPS for allowing me to talk about the work of the charitable organization Community Refund in Nicaragua. I don’t know if you saw it but the project was actually just covered by the BBC although it’s difficult access when abroad. It’s a collaboration between real estate agents, real estate attorneys, title insurance providers and real estate investors to generate funds for the local community at the time of closing. All parties to a Nicaragua real estate transaction are offered the opportunity of donating a percentage of their closing fees or funds. So in an ideal world:
The real estate agent will donate 1% of their commission
The title insurance company 1% of their title insurance fee
The real estate attorney 1% of their due diligence fee
The buyer 1% of their purchase price
The real estate vendor 1% of the sale price
The result – a large donation to go back to the community. After all everyone benefits if the community in which they are buying real estate is able to grow and prosper.
One of the best programs of Community Refund is Savings Start. It’s designed to help people from the local community save money to start their business. It’s designed as a training program teaching key business skills such as computer literacy, business planning, marketing and sales. There is also a requirement to open a savings account to which Community Refund offers matched donations.
Much of these skills may seem fairly basic, but when you’re learning alone and isolated they can seem like huge barriers. People in the developed world take for granted that they can gain access to all sorts of training and education relatively easily. In countries like Nicaragua it’s not really as simple. For example online entrepreneurs in these countries often need to use proxies and VPNs in order to gain access to payment processors like Paypal. It’s quite simple to learn what to do if you have unlimited access to the internet, but much more difficult if you don’t.
A number of small businesses have already been set up by entrepreneurs on the back of the Savings Start program. I’m proud to be a part of it. It’s a great example of how a local real estate industry can ensure that some of the benefits flow to the local community. Everyone will be better for it. It highlights just what is possible if people are given even a small hand in starting out. Creating a business is difficult if you’re continually on the subsistence line with no additional funds to invest. Even a modest amount of extra income can create many multiples of wealth within a specific community.
There is no doubt that computers are used virtually everywhere. Organizations ranging from schools to businesses rely on those devices to improve the way they do things. Indeed, without computers, most enterprises would not earn as much money as they are getting now. A lot of business leaders try their hardest to get the most out of their existing business strategy. However, I think an important factor to consider in business strategy development is human resources. In particular, the way employees use their computers. Can employees get the best out of their “workstations” (the more fancy term for computers in offices or factories)? If you are a business owner and your answer to this question is no, then there is no need to worry. There are many ways to help improve the computer skills of your workers.
First, give your workers enough time to learn about their new machines. Many corporate bosses are so uptight about productivity, that they sometimes cut short training or re-training sessions for their employees. However, businesses that use a lot of computers require special time for their employees to be familiar with those devices. More time should be provided for older employees (e.g. the “baby boomers”) who need to use computers in their line of work. After all, these older people are generally not as familiar with computers as those who were born in, say, during the ‘80s. It will also help if different trainers are assigned to different age groups. Like for example, one trainer would be assigned for the baby boomers, and another would be designated to the younger generation. It would be a good business strategy to assign a more patient and understanding trainer to employees who are older. This strategy would be better than firing old employees and replacing them with young ones since those “seniors” are already familiar with their companies’ daily functioning.
It’s important that this training is done correctly as there are likely many vital components that should be covered. One example is that of security, especially if the employees are going to be working remotely outside the office environment. They should be taught how to use the security tools to keep their data and credentials safe. There’s no point installing VPN software on their computer if they just use it to watch the BBC when travelling and don’t enable it while checking their email!
Lastly, make your employees fall in love with modern technology. After all, not all workers are tech-savvy, or are friendly with technology. Some extreme ones are “technophobes,” fearing technology like some people would fear, say, heights. It would greatly help your business strategy if you set up a bulletin board in your store or office that features articles containing information about the latest computers and gadgets. Such articles must be easily understood by the average person, and as much as possible, should be colourful and attractive.
Basically, the bulletin board should encourage all employees to love technology for its own sake, and not for consumerist aims. Developing this mindset among workers would help them more quickly learn about how to use their computers, since with love comes interest. With interest, comes enthusiasm. Enthusiasm helps them learn computer skills faster. Try to avoid using too much jargon, if you do only a certain proportion of the work force will engage. Stress the purpose and aim of software and tools without the ‘technical language’, most people don’t need to know what a proxy is just when they should use one.
These two steps are only a few among the many that you can try in order to improve your employees’ computer skills. After all, transforming your workforce into a more tech-savvy group of workers is an important step to make sure that your business strategy will work for you.
Many years ago I was sent to work in a new post within the company. I had been with them doing the same job for years and was skilled at what I did, but this new work required me to make use of technology specifically a VPN for computer, something that I had avoided all of my working life. I did not understand them nor want to for that matter. However, the new work required that I learn and learn fast. It was an uphill struggle for me and I still don’t think that I am that competent on the systems.
So whilst I was working for the Church at Christmas helping to man the charity tables for the homeless I met this guy who works with a body called ‘CEDPS’ who work with young people to get them into the way of working on computers. He said that it brings them closer to gaining gainful employment by upping their skill base. I was impressed and when I went home told my wife about my meeting. She said that her friend’s son was involved in the learning process and that he was now so proficient that he had been able to use the internet to arrange her accommodation for her trip to London last year.
I thought about this for a while and now during my work in schools and such, especially in those areas of social deprivation, I encourage the kids to think about contacting ‘CEDPS’ to see if they would qualify for any help that the organisation could offer to them.
As I said, I am not an expert at using computers, but had I not been willing to learn the new skills then I would most certainly not been here happily using a german proxy and possibly would have lost my job. If these kids can be helped forward then the world really will be at their fingertips.
It’s not an option to avoid technology anymore simply because virtually any job will involve some sort of computers. What’s more, lack of basic computer knowledge can act as a real restriction to further opportunities. The person who is comfortable with technology is always more likely to be considered for new opportunities that those who aren’t. It should be stressed that no-one needs to fear technology, there’s no real intelligence requirement. Most people can develop and learn about technology if they’re given the opportunity, there’s no restrictions. When you see an 80 year old with no experience of computers, happily using a VPN to watch UK TV when on holiday – you can see this is true.
The skills required to be successful on the internet are quite different from the skills required to be successful in social situations. People are apt to invent personae on the internet. These fabricated personalities often help shy and easily embarrassed people to live out alter-ego fantasies of being popular and confident. In many ways this can be therapeutic for people and can hopefully give them the boost to their confidence needed to make friends in a non-virtual environment. On the other hand, some people pretend to be who they are not on the internet to ‘groom’ young people and other vulnerable people in order to exploit them.
The truth is that an internet ‘friend’ is not the same as a ‘real’ friend. It is of course possible to make the cross over, but until that jump from ‘possible’ friend to ‘real’ friend is made caution should be exercised about what information is given out, about arranging 1 to 1 meetings. It’s become even more important in later years due in much to the pandemic. Although the virus has caused many of us to become more isolated in a physical way, we’re all more likely to have become more connected digitally.
How many of us had been in ‘computer based’ meeting until 2020, how many of us had heard of Microsoft Teams or Zoom. Video conferencing has become mainstream now, with most of us having experienced it in some context. Most office workers operating from home will now be well versed in such meetings, often playing a large part in the working day. We’ve probably had training or instructions in using the technology but probably little guidance in social techniques and etiquette in these environments.
The boundaries between who we know in real life and those we only know digitally is becoming more blurred. Advice was previously to only interact with people you know physically online. This isn’t always possible now where we have to regularly attend meetings with many, many people we’ve never met or are likely to meet. It’s just like meeting people you have seen on TV or in the cinema. Not having that physical connection can make it difficult to read people, situations and expressions on a digital platform. Also there is the very real issue of knowing who some one is, your location is no longer guaranteed especially when people can use proxies to hide their real identity too.
One place that is great for honing interpersonal skills is a party. This is a relaxed environment where people are more open to being approached. People at a party want to have a good time; they drink; they laugh and they dance. It is an ideal opportunity to make friends.
One of the biggest parties in the world is the full moon party on Haad Rin Sunrise beach. This beach is on the tropical island of Koh Phangan. Up to 30,000 people hit the beach from all over the world to celebrate the full moon and dance all night. It is a perfect environment for meeting new people and testing to see if you can hold a conversation with a stranger. If you are single it is a great place to meet someone you like and maybe grab a cuddle or a kiss. It is easy; everyone is doing it. It is just a matter of confidence, and being yourself. You have no avatar or internet persona to hide behind.