In South Africa, the Vodacom mobile network recently ran a humorous television advertising campaign to attract more first-time users to use their mobile Internet products. Apparently first time users tend to think that internet access is tricky and difficult to set up and use. Now where would they get that idea?
The campaign introduces two earnest emissaries from a nameless foreign country on an official mission to South Africa, to find and retrieve some exciting new invention called ‘Internet’ (less obscene, more boring, but shades of Borat nonetheless) . Wherever the two travellers go, happy partying South Africans assure them that ‘Internet is maklik’ (Internet is easy). South Africans, though, are too busy having fun to bother to show them exactly where to find this elusive ‘Internet’. They eventually find a shop called ‘Maklik’ in a dorpie somewhere, selling what look to be large, ancient geysers. They return triumphantly to their Glorious Nation of [Unspecified Eurasian Country], where their solemn unveiling of the geyser-like Internet-thing is greeted with appropriate fanfare.
I spent two days of my last holiday helping my godmother, an award-winning primary school teacher, get connected for the first time. Between a dodgy bargain-basement modem, mismatched software and hardware, and endless stretches of time spent listening to irrelevant options on the Vodacom customer care line, I have to concede that first-time users are entirely correct in their prejudices. The Borat-lookalike probably had as much fun trying to log onto his geyser as we did trying to get online with Vodacom. While getting online is definitely easier than it used to be for cellphone users, mobile Internet is not so ‘maklik’ for everyone — my godmother called me in tears a while ago, frustrated at suddenly being unable to connect. After a bit of troubleshooting we realised she’d run out of airtime. This was a good sign to me, as it showed she had been using her connection, but I expect to be getting regular helpdesk calls like that over the next couple of months as she tries to figure out all the other ‘easy’ things which all Internet users struggle with at some stage, but which we find so very ‘maklik’ to forget.