Necessary Skills For Peace Corps ICT Volunteers

Software Knowledge

This is where I get particularly opinionated. It has been my experience that many of the computers in Kenya are running pirated copies of Windows XP because that is what is on the market. This has many negative side affects such as extreme vulnerability to viruses, lack of updated patches, and continuing the notion that software piracy is ok which in my opinion it’s not. But if this is the case, then you must be prepared for dealing with slow, virus infested computers that are so bad anti-virus won’t even help because most of the time you can’t get it installed. In these situations, a healthy knowledge of Windows Registry hacking is helpful, as well as knowing hazardous computer processes from legitimate ones. Finally, cap it off with a little pro-active anti-virus lesson. I am not just talking about the software, but also talking about what a virus is, where it comes from, why it’s bad and how to prevent them using both software and modified user behaviors.

Ultimately though, it is my goal to move people away from the pirated Windows world and into the Free, Open Source and Linux worlds. The benefits of this are worth it, though there are some pitfalls one needs to keep in mind. The FOSS world provides people with legally obtainable software that can easily compete against paid-for (read: pirated) proprietary software in every day use in the developing world. And in many situations, you can actually custom tailor your FOSS solution so that it runs far better than any Windows solution would, especially if you optimize the Linux distribution and software versions you choose to run. Do not perceive this as running old and outdated software, instead perceive it as running appropriate software for completing the tasks at hand. It is the same philosophy netbooks are applying in the West: we don’t all need super-power desktops running full-featured graphics editing suites to send a picture of the grandkids to your grandma, ya know?

The pitfalls of this approach are readily apparent however. Much FOSS is tied to the Internet by default. Linux gets its updates via online package repositories and installed software is constantly changing and upgrading, so shouldn’t you be as well? Understand these update processes and learn how to tailor them to your situation. Migrate repositories onto external HDs and use them to distribute packages. When you download new software, don’t forget to get all of its dependencies. FOSS is an entirely new ecosystem to comprehend compared to the Windows/Mac world, but understanding it can have a very large impact on the sustainability of your work, in my honest opinion.

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One response to “Necessary Skills For Peace Corps ICT Volunteers

  1. Thanks, that was refreshing to see again that you’re thinking about a lot of the stuff I’d been thinking about in Tanzania. I would expand from just UPS too: I think that AVS and other line conditioning can be more cost effective for labs.

    http://ttctip.wordpress.com/2009/09/21/umeme-uchafu-and-you/

    I like FOSS CloneZilla cloning software but I haven’t tried PING.