2003: First Internet Use Experience
It’s 10:00 am in May 2003 (I don’t remember the day), a typical very hot day in Mogadishu. We just came back from swimming in Geel Laq, a very popular beach in Mogadishu back in the day. Swimming was a typical childhood experience in Mogadishu! On our way back home, while passing Marwaas Mosque in Hamar Weyne, we came across a crowded space and out of curiosity, we tried to find out what it was: it’s a new cyber café in Somalia, Wireless African Broadband Telecommunications (Wabtel). I think this was the first ISP service provider in Southern Somalia.
We entered inside to see what’s happening and we found out people were paying money to rent and use the desktop computers in the room and connect to the Internet. We were told we could talk to our family and friends outside the country. As they told us that day, this was different than mobile phones as you could SEE your family and friends. That’s unbelievable with just Sh. So. 5,000!
We rented a PC for 30 minutes to get connected to the Internet. I still laugh to this day if I remember the experience of that day. Our time slot was released and the 30 mins started ticking! I was with a friend of mine and both us didn’t know what to do with the PC in front of us other than move the mouse around and see the cursor blinking around the screen.
We saw a folder on the desktop with the name Somali Music. We clicked multiple times, but finally, with a double click, it opened and the first MP3 song I played from a computer was this classic Maryan Mursal and the late Hussein Tarabi song. There’s still a love connection between me and this song. I’m into modern music, but this classic one still gives me goosebumps!
That’s my first experience with the Internet in 2003; I don’t know if that sounds a milestone, but within three years of exposure to the Internet, I was coding and building websites in 2006.
First Email Account
Another day came in 2004 when a friend of mine took me to a cyber café in KM4. We were both in Form I at the time. I saw him signing in his email account and I asked him to let me use it. He passed the keyboard and I immediately typed firstname.lastname@example.org and a “fiction” password. The email client returned an error message. Why? Because typically you first need to SIGN UP for an account before using it; I was just signing in without creating one. Lol! What a beautiful experience and lesson!
Then, with the help of my friend, I created my first email account: email@example.com. I told my friend that I needed this email to exist for a veeeeryyy long-time until next year that time (2005) thinking that it was a good target. The rest is history!
First YouTube Video to Hit 1 Million Views
Another beautiful moment that is worth of mentioning is that I was one of the early adopters of YouTube. I was one of the viewers who watched the first ever YouTube video that hit 1 million views. At the time, 1 million views was an unreachable feat but Ronaldinho did it in style! This was the moment when the concept of “viral video” was introduced to the world.
Within three years, after those horrible yet beautiful experiences, I fall in love with creating content and I started blogging while I was a Secondary School student at Hamar Boarding and Kindergarten School. I created my first blog in July 27, 2006 (see the image below), a time when Mogadishu was burning and facing one of its worst histories. The Ethiopian forces invaded in the capital city and heavy clashes were taking place at every corner of the city.
I still remember a day when I heard gunshots while I was surfing the net at WABTEL cyber café in KM4. We all rushed outside to see what was a happening and someone’s head was exploded with live bullets. His brain was scattered everywhere. That terrifying experience still haunts me to this day. But my passion for technology never faded away even when the circumstances made it almost impossible to use it.
Whenever I look back at how my posts have evolved, it keeps remember that we everyone needs to have one blog to journal our respective lives. For example, my first post reflects on my passion at the time: learning English. Then, as my life kept on evolving, my posts the reflected on the journeys I was going through.
Today, I use blogging to learn, shape opinions, influence people, and network. For example, whenever I want to learn new tech tools, how to write research papers, reflect on new skills acquired, and shape the business ecosystem in Somalia, I go to my blog and start writing. I write to grow.
Blogging also gave me a platform to showcase who and what is impacting my life for the better. For example, Whenever I travel, I use blogging to capture the best memories. While I was in Japan, I used to mentor Japanese high schoolers and pen down my experiences with them. Also, during my stay in Japan, I also found a new role model, Fukuzawa Yukichi, a profound and reflective thinker, educator, and advocate of opening Japan to Western Ideas and civilization. The reason why I’m fascinated by his story and legacy is that he was an advocate of education, individual independence, and self-respect, values which I personally strive to achieve and implement in my life. I had to sit down and reflect on him.
My visit and experiences in the U.S.A. also required a reflection as my time in MIT and Harvard were great personal and professional milestones in life.
Blogging led me to win the “Best Article Award” in an Essay Competition by the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) as part of a competition against students from the ACP Countries (Africa, Caribbean, and Pacific states). My article was chosen as the best article of the Top 5 articles receiving a Gold Plaque written on my name. This is the article that led me to receive such award.
Technology is the Way Forward
Ever since then, I kept on using technology (for better use, of course). It gave me a platform to explore myself and grow both personally and professionally. I’m where I’m today because of the impact of the Internet. The young boy who got exposed to technology in 2003 was coding and blogging in 2006.
It gave me access to quality education that I couldn’t get it in Somalia. I helped strengthen my undergrad education, postgrad, and professional work. It added quality to my work.
And….I’ll always be proud of the technology and its impact on the human experiences such as mine.
Thank you for reading this long post. I hope it gave you memories of Mogadishu and, as they say, the good old days.
Till then, see you in my next 30th blogging celebrations!