By Jeremiah Mauti
Published October 14, 2014
Hellen Njeri, an internet café operator in Ngong Hills on the outskirts of the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, uses her laptop computer not on her lap but on the table as she works.
Some 350 kilometres away in Nakuru at the floor of the Great Rift Valley, Public Relations practitioner Kimani Njoroge who works from home also types his reports on a laptop placed on a regular table.
Johnson Wafula accesses the stock list from his laptop atop the counter of a drug store in which he serves as an assistant at the Indian Ocean port of Mombasa.
Njeri, Njoroge and Wafula are just some of the many Kenyans who are using their laptop computers as if they were the bulky regular computers that usually sit on tables and desks and are thus referred to as desktops. And this practice is extended to offices, classrooms and homes across Kenya.
Just why are Kenyans converting a machine that was meant to be placed on one’s lap into one that must be placed on a table instead?
“I prefer to use my laptop as a desktop instead of placing it on my lap as intended to achieve the right body posture while working,” Njeri says. “Working from the desktop environment allows me to adjust the screen and frees me to move my arms about freely as I attend to customers. The correct posture also helps me in increasing my typing speed.”
Edwin Amoro, an IT technician, says using a laptop like a regular computer provides good ventilation that enables the processor of the machine to function optimally.
Apart from proper ventilation, Amoro says he prefers using his laptop like a desktop because it is ‘user-friendly’ as “the desktop environment enables me to sit upright as I work. Placing my computer on a table also prevents it from sliding and hence minimises typing errors.”
Dorcas Wanjau, a video editor, says ‘’Operating a laptop like a desktop helps the user to avoid straining his or her eyes and neck.”
Circumstances like maintaining good rapport with viewers force media practitioners—newscasters and reporters – to operate laptops like desktop computers mainly because they are required to use both verbal and nonverbal communication while presenting programmes on TV.
Karama Ogova, ICT Manager at Lola Kenya Screen, explains that it is convenience that drives people into placing laptops on top of desks and tables. This is to minimise the burden of heavy weights on one’s lap from dawn to dusk as people are prone to spend long hours working on computers. He also added that laptops produce a lot of heat which poses health problems to the user.
Indeed, scientists warn that men who use laptops on their laps have a high chance of suffering from ailments like testicular cancer and skin syndrome.
And it isn’t just men who may be adversely affected by the extended use of laptops; pregnant women, too, could be putting themselves and their unborn babies at risk.
The laptop was devised to provide mobility and not to be used on inordinately long hours as if one were using a fixed computer placed on a desk or a table.
Laptop radiation could be minimised if the machine is used from a table or desk. It is recommended that if one must use one’s laptops on the lap, one should insert a sturdy pillow of at least six thicknesses between one’s lap and the laptop.Otherwise, it is best to use it on a table or desk, as the radiation falls away quickly with increasing distance.