At the request of a reader, here is an entry regarding what I think the, “ideal,” (reading: not me) Peace Corps ICT volunteer should bring in terms of skills. Like all Peace Corps volunteer skill-sets, this isn’t very specific so I am going to be annoyingly general and slightly subjective as I have my own opinions regarding ICT and development that I wish to see people implementing. Also, these are based only on my knowledge as an ICT volunteer working specifically in Kenya and each Peace Corps country is run independent of one another so different countries may call for completely different skills.
Make sure you bring lots of patience. You are most likely going to be teaching, even if not in a formal setting, because that is what most Peace Corps volunteers do in some capacity: we teach. However, teaching computer skills has to be one of the most frustrating things to teach in the developing world mostly because as young Americans growing up we have never formally studied computers and therefore have no real specific model for formally teaching computers. Fellow PCVs of mine on several occasions have called me up saying that they just don’t know what to do, don’t know where to start, where to strive. How does one explain the concept of the mouse and keyboard? The monitor? Constantly changing desktop interfaces? Files and folders, when many of your students have never even seen a filing cabinet or manila folder in the first place?!
On top of that, computers are multi-function, so how does one prioritize and select what gets taught beyond the basics? Is word processing relevant enough to your students’ lives? Are you training them to be business workers or training them to use computers in their everyday lives? Do you have the Internet? Should you focus instead on GMail and Facebook? What about games?
Finally, things break but oftentimes there are no spare parts. Computers will be sitting idle as you wait for a final piece of hardware which in the States you could just run to Best Buy or Fry’s and pick up, but in the middle of nowhere there is no Best Buy or Fry’s. You will want to be teaching but you cannot. Same goes for electricity. Solar panels don’t always work; grid infrastructure is minimal and flaky at best and just as likely to fry your computer in a surge as it is to power it regularly. With all these things in mind, the number one item in any ICT toolkit should be patience, endless amounts of patience.