E-mail computes for first-time users
by Carol Barnwell
He looks as though he is setting off on a bicycle without training wheels for the first time--- eyes wide with anticipation and a trace of terror. Bishop Peter Elbersh Kowa (Kadugli and Nuba Mountains, Sudan) tentatively takes the mouse in his hand, laughing nervously when the cursor skitters across the screen in response.
``It makes very short work,'' he says as a reply to his first e-mail, sent just hours before, appears on the screen.``Can I have a copy?'' he asks, clearly pleased with the new skill he is gaining. ``This is excellent,'' Bishop Kowa says. ``The bishop wanted to send a fax,'' explains Greg Mills, of the Conference telecommunications team. ``The card he handed me contained an e-mail address so we used it!''
Bishop Kowa sits at the monitor, dressed in a blue-and-yellow traditional, African congolo, with two Australian coaches kneeling at his elbow, guiding each new step. ``Now what is the next thing?'' he asks, anxious for more information. ``I drew an outline for the bishop,'' Mr Mills explains, ``showing him how his message moved from here through cyberspace and to his parishioners, who are at a conference in Cypress.''
Mr Mills, who owns a communications consulting firm in Canberra, Australia, joined the Inter-Anglican Information Network set up at the last Lambeth Conference and was selected to help set up the extensive system for the Conference. More than 250 bishops have logged-on to send and receive e-mail since the Conference started, more than a quarter for the first time. ``The response has exceeded our estimates,'' Mr Mills says.
One bishop was ``over the moon'' when told there was no charge for the service. A grant from Trinity Church, Wall Street, has made more than 200 computers and e-mail addresses and assistance available for all bishops at the Conference. ``My own diocesan bishop has only tinkered with e-mail,'' Mr Mills says, ``but he's using it regularly now to prepare his presidential address for a diocesan synod meeting.''
E-mail also is being used for administrative and business communications within the Conference, as was much of the pre-Lambeth planning. ``It doesn't replace face-to-face meetings but it's financially attractive when the resources are scarce,'' Mr Mills says. Making this the most interactive Lambeth Conference ever held has been a prime focus of Trinity for the past three years. Grants already have been made to Liberia, Panama, Fiji, Tanzania and Guatemala among others to provide computers and new technology within the Anglican Communion. The problems are sometimes as complicated as the technology. In some places the sale of modems or satellite dishes is illegal while in others, such as Papua New Guinea, new technology has allowed them to ``leapfrog beyond Australia because they didn't have a legacy of outdated equipment,'' Mr Mills says. ``But Trinity is keen to support new work where it is wanted,'' he adds. Bishop Kowa intends to stay on the bicycle and will write a grant application toTrinity by e-mail from the Conference. Once you learn to ride, you never forget!
allocated more than $700,000 for 1998 to strengthen the Church in the global south
and another $250,000 to strengthen telecommunications in the Anglican Communion.
For grants information write to Trinity Grants Programme, 74 Trinity Place, NewYork,
NY 10006-2088; telephone 212.602.0710; or e-mail
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