One of the starkest observations was this: Even basic stuff can be hard. I had no idea how many roadblocks a user could potentially hit just trying to sign up for a Google account, find a website/service, etc. For example, trying to explain the nature of an account security question (e.g. "What is your mother's maiden name?") to a user who doesn't speak either of my languages, English or Internet lingo, can be extremely difficult.
Another one was that many people simply don't know what a quality website looks like. I found myself consistently asking the business owners, "What would you want to tell someone who knows nothing about your business?" With the extreme inexperience using the Internet, people often need suggestions for standard pages, content, how to structure their sites, and so on. Even with standard or comprehensive help text, people still need a lot of guidance/hand holding. Building a system that feels like a human tutorial is difficult.
The final observation was that people don't really need to be sold on the value proposition. This was the most surprising to me. Internet penetration in Ghana is only ~4%, and yet these business owners were so enthusiastic and determined to get online. Granted there's a selection bias for the people who would attend such a conference, but it was also clear that there's already a rich market of interested business owners. People are very excited to have the autonomy to get online themselves. Good news for me!
|Estelle presenting while Eve offers one-on-one support to a business owner.|
|Helping a Ghanaian Shea butter exporter develop a website.|
|A gift from the lady above for a hard day's work.|