The Importance of Twitter

When I first heard of Twitter, I couldn’t ever imagine myself using it. I already have a blog, so why do I need to go beyond that by posting short messages about what I’m doing at every little moment?

I tended to agree with people who suggested that Twitter is nothing more than “inane twaddle” and more akin to a “glorified messenger service”. But that was before Matt started integrating Twitter into this project.

As Matt explained to me, the internet connection in Uganda is worse than Bangladesh. So, not only is video blogging out of the question, but also even regular blogging is sometimes hard. Each photo he uploads to this site, he told me, takes about half an hour.

That’s how he got involved with Twitter. Thanks to Twitter, I’ve been able to keep track of the ups and downs of his micro-finance project to help over 180 Ugandan grandmothers earn an income. When you guys stepped in by offering to help finance his work, we were able to see how he did things every step of the way – practically in real-time.

After being inspired by Matt, I started to use Twitter myself. Sure, sometimes I do talk about inane things, like the new Star Trek movie posters that came out or the difficulties in making a background layout for the YouTube channel. But, I’ve also been able to share important experiences I wouldn’t have blogged about.

As those following me on Twitter know, I recently came back from a trip outside of Dhaka City that involved an overnight boat ride. Although such boats can be safe, there are also a lot of risks. One of the colleagues I went with, in fact, had lost her cellphone after being robbed at the docks.

If it wasn’t for Twitter, I would never have talked about the warning I got from someone reminding me the importance of locking my cabin door and then – after docking – how I had to stay inside the cabin for three extra hours while we waited for the robbers and thugs along the docks to lose interest.

After Cyclone Sidr hit Bangladesh, I was one of the few (or perhaps the only person) live-blogging during disaster relief work. Most of the personnel in the field (from various NGOs and charities) simply didn’t have time to do much more than send a quick email or SMS a friend. I could very easily see the importance of Twitter in providing quick, accessible, and important information in a situation like that.

The way I see it, Twitter has a lot of potential – maybe even more than blogs itself. But that doesn’t mean that there won’t be “inane” stuff on there. For me, my biggest limitation to untapping that potential with Twitter is the equipment I have. I usually have to pull out my MacBook, boot it up, and then use Twitter. The keypad on my old Motorola cellphone isn’t very Twitter-friendly.

With this project, I’m trying my best to make important issues (like global poverty) accessible to a global audience by using blogs and video blogs in a way that no one has before. I can very easily see Twitter adding another dimension to making this issue accessible to others. And all it would take is an iPhone (or other smartphone) and use of the ubiquituous cellular (but slow) internet that is cropping up here in the developing world.

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