Letters to the Editor

Lola Techie is a Boto Patroller

- Arlene Burgos -

MANILA, Philippines - Estimates have it that as much as 60 percent of next year’s 45 million voters will come from the age bracket of 18 to 40 years old.

By the Commission on Elections’ projections, there would be around nine million new voters.

We knew it all along: the youth is our hope. But this adage just takes on a new dimension given the big voting bloc that these youngsters could be by next year. This means these young people could end up installing the country’s next president and next set of national and local officials.

The young segment of the voting population is strongly making itself felt among the membership of the Boto Mo iPatrol Mo: Ako ang Simula movement of ABS-CBN’s News and Current Affairs.

Now verging on a membership base of 30,000 Boto Patrollers, the Boto Mo iPatrol Mo movement has attracted numerous cell phone-wielding, e-mail address-brandishing people. They understand what Boto Mo iPatrol Mo wants to do and what active citizen engagement means to our democracy. They almost need no explaining when the Boto Mo iPatrol Mo registration booth goes to their schools. They line up and listen awhile about what needs to be done. And then they list down their e-mail addresses or their Multiply accounts. They take down ABS-CBN’s e-mail address, four-digit cell phone number, and then they’re ready to go. They need the least explanation. They were born with e-mail addresses and they learned how to text in kindergarten.

The situation is different when Boto Mo iPatrol Mo talks to the older set. It takes a little more time for people not really used to technology to get the idea (but that is not to say they do not appreciate it). It’s just probably the way it is: a generation of tech-savvy people who have witnessed possibly the biggest technological leaps and bounds no generation before it has witnessed, and a generation before it that did not notice the leaps and bounds were happening.

Thus, while education may be the great equalizer, and may have a way of playing catch-up with those who have learned to use technology like it’s their second skin, technology still moves so fast it spells an even greater digital divide. Technology is halving the citizenry among those who have access to it and those who have none, and among those who have enough knowledge base to use it and those who do not. But that does not mean that gap could not be bridged.

It was in this milieu that we met Lola Techie, the poster girl for Bayan Telecommunications’ many telecommunication services. In several Bayan advertisements she is seen chatting before a computer, talking about social networking sites Facebook or Twitter. In others she is seen playing a networked game, which is popular among teenagers. That makes her a really groovy grandmother, and a real-life famous personality in Facebook.

Bayan is a partner of Boto Mo iPatrol Mo, and is behind the voice message service 411-BMPM or 411-2676 that has allowed citizens and Boto Patrollers to leave 30-second messages, comments, complaints and reports to ABS-CBN News.

Like the other mechanisms that citizens and Boto Patrollers use to relay these reports to ABS-CBN, messages left through this voice message service are checked by ABS-CBN journalists, verified, and where appropriate, incorporated into the network’s news coverage. Sometimes, the voice messages are aired as stand-alone man-on-the-street pieces or comments.

Lola Techie is not exactly your typical Boto Mo iPatrol Mo member. In fact, she is the Boto Patroller’s grandmother. That is the point.

Last Saturday, Lola Techie signed up to be a Boto Patroller in Bayan’s entertainment showcase at the SM Cyberzone in Quezon City in time for the Grandparents’ Day. The event was called “Teach Lola,” and featured computer sets so the elderly can be coached how to set up an e-mail account, how to use Google — just enough so they can communicate with their families and loved ones through technology.

In an interview after she officially became a Boto Patroller, Lola Techie said she thought it is important that people her age (she is 67) learn current day technology. What’s even more important, she said it’s important that her generation not let go of their responsibility as citizens, and given that new technology would be a very important feature of next year’s elections, she said it becomes even more important to learn that. Thus, Lola Techie officially became a Boto Patroller. We did not teach her anything. We just had to sit down and take her lessons.

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