Greetings to my fellow readers of The Pashtun Times..!
My name is Roger Dubar. I live in Glasgow, Scotland. I’ve been using the internet for over 25 years, and have used it to talk to and made friends with people from all over the world.
In February, I traveled to Barcelona in Spain for Europe’s biggest telecom conference, Mobile World Congress 2016.
As I sat in café, surrounded by a hundred thousand attendees from every country, I found myself reading an article in The Pashtun Times about a five-year-old child who’d received a signed football shirt from Barcelona’s footballing legend Lionel Messi. This brought home to the immense power of technology to bring people together, from every country and every background. [https://thepashtuntimes.com/afghan-kid-receives-signed-shirt-from-lionel-messi/]
I was at the conference with my company Zapcoder [http://Zapcoder.com]. We make games for fun and education, and are developing a new app that will let anyone create and share games on any smartphone, and share them instantly with their friends on social media. We were part of the official Scotland Stand, and met with potential development and distribution partners from North Africa, South America, Asia, Europe and more. Our aim is to be the “Instagram of gaming”, with millions of users from all over the globe.
I’ve been programming computers and making games ever since I was a child. After spending most of my career as a media lawyer, I’ve found myself starting a business to give everyone the power to create interactive content. It’s a fun and exciting chance of pace from being a lawyer.
The keynote speaker at this years’ Congress was Facebook Founder Mark Zuckerberg, and the star technologies on show where virtual reality technology from Oculus, and the beautifully powerful Samsung Galaxy S7.
However, the conference is about more that just the latest in high-tech. Also headlining as a speaker was Karim Khoja, CEO of Afghanistan telecoms company Roshan, and he like Mark Zuckerberg talked about how we can empower even more people by giving them access to the internet on simple, cheap smartphones. (My own company’s technology is tested too on low-end devices, to give the power of creativity to as many people as possible).
As I attended the conference with delegates from all over the world, and walked through the streets of Barcelona, packed with tourists and immigrants from every corner, it was hard not to think of how lucky those of us are in Europe to live in such a time of peace and inclusion.
Barcelona is the capital of Catalonia, a region within the larger country of Spain. The Catalans have a distinct language and history that was sadly suppressed in less enlightened times. In that way it’s similar to Scotland with the United Kingdom, and to the Pashtuns in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Barcelona’s four million inhabitants come mainly from Spain, of course: but it’s a truly international city, with students and migrants and workers from everywhere you can imagine.
Barcelona is not the cheapest city. For the conference, I stayed in an apartment next to the main tourist road La Rambla [https://uk.hotels.com/ho481928/ssa-ramblas-deluxe-apartments-barcelona-spain/, €225 per night].
The facilities and location were great, although there wasn’t much of a view. I took the chance to spend the weekend after the conference in the city, staying at the stylish Barceló Raval
When I first visited the city many years ago, the Raval was a rough, tough area. It’s now calmer, a mix of gentle immigrant families and cool bars and restaurants.
If you do visit, you must make the most of the incredible art that Barcelona is justly famous for. There are museums and parks celebrating many of the major figures who have worked and lived in the city, including Picasso, Dalí, Miró, and the mind-bending architecture of Antoni Gaudí. Contemporary art lovers should not miss MACBA: Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona [http://www.macba.cat/en/], and everyone should see the incredible Sagrada Família, a church like nothing you’ll ever see elsewhere.
Catalonia is world famous for its food. Being on a startup-budget, we managed to eat quite cheaply. TripAdvisor was a good guide. Anywhere near the main tourist points should be ignored – you will get better and cheaper elsewhere.
For alchohol, we had no complaints with the house red wine wherever we went. Spirits are more expensive than back home in Glasgow, but the measures are eye-wateringly bigger.
Talking of home… In my country of Scotland, we’ve recently voted to stay part of the United Kingdom in a tightly fought referendum; and as part of the wider United Kingdom, we will vote later this year on whether to stay or leave the European Union.
Whatever happens in these votes and in the wider world, technology gives us tools that we can choose to use for good or for evil; to bring us together or to push us apart.
For decades in Europe. We’re lived side by side with our neighbours, each proud of our heritage and history, without fear of violence and oppression. There are things we agree on, things we disagree on, customs that bemuse us, and food and music and culture to delight us all… But the power to communicate and to share knowledge and to express ourselves and to disagree is what gives us the power to make things better.
Without that, where would we be?
The power of the Net to educate, inform, entertain, and even buy and sell is unprecedented in human history. It provides a unique opportunity to preserve and share cultures, to debate and to agree, to give people power over their own lives and to build friendships and communities all over the world.
That will only happen, though, if we protect not only our own rights to think and to believe and to express themselves and to trade, but to protect the rights of others to do the same.
When the editor of The Pashtun Times asked me to write about my travels in Barcelona (having seen my posts on Facebook), he sent me a fascinating article he’d written about Pashto Culture. [https://thepashtuntimes.com/pashtuns-and-pashtunwali-2/]. It contains a wonderful quote from the poet Ghani Khan, who said “a typical Pashtun is kind and gentle but hates to show it. He loves fighting but hates to be a soldier.”
I laughed, because this reminded me of people from Glasgow! We too pride ourselves on our hospitality, even looking down on our neighbours in Edinburgh. They may have most the tourists, but we are friendlier…
Every country has its own characteristics. The Scots are feisty. The English, more reserved, mostly. The Germans and Swiss are organised. The French more passionate. Those from Southern Europe, French, Spanish, Italian and Greek are warm and animated, like the climate. People from Northern Europe are cooler, like their weather. But every country has its customs, and marvellous food, and incredible art, and they are all there for all of us to explore – even if that just involves reading books and websites.
Technology, travel and especially the internet have made the world much smaller. This gives us immense opportunities to make our lives and make the world a better place: but only if we are open to new experiences and new ideas.
If we use technology only to talk to people who believe what we believe, and to build walls between us and our neighbours, the only outcomes can be conflict and ignorance.
I’m not sure if I will attend Mobile World Congress again next year. There are many more events in many cities that I would love to visit and to take my business. But taking the time to get out of our offices and our home cities to travel to meet like-minded people from other countries and cultures is a privilege, and one that makes me happy to be able to share with you all.
Hasta luego, Barcelona. ورسته به ګورو
By Roger Dubar, Glasgow, Scotland
Picture Credit: Sarah Quinn
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