Necessary Skills For Peace Corps ICT Volunteers

It’s About The Machines

Get rid of any perception that you can just use the computers here as you do back home; that you can just load up all your favorite software and teach kids Facebook and whatnot. This is most likely not going to be the case. The hardware you work with will be old, beat up, battered. It needs to be understood and as I said before, you need to find out what works. You need to flip your brain back into the 1980s and 1990s when it was about what we could eek of the hardware; when programmers had ideas they wanted to implement but just couldn’t because the CPUs did not cycle fast enough. Nowadays, most people in the West are running overpowered machines and so the focus is back on software, but here in the developing world the focus is mostly on the hardware. What are its limits?

In this regard I suggest looking into software solutions that focus on low resource use. Understand the eras of computers, understand that when you open up a 1995 Compaq desktop it’s not necessarily going to have the pretty ATX-standardized motherboard layout you were expecting. What the heck is that big black port at t he bottom? It’s an ISA slot. Know whether upgrading your RAM or Hard Drive will be more important to get more use out of the machines. Can you even upgrade a CPU in the country? Did this model even allow CPU upgrades in the first place? Can I guarantee you that you will be working with old, old hardware? No, and the 24 computers in my lab running Dual-Core Pentiums with gigs of RAM are perfect counter-examples. However, I also know that when I am out in the rural areas, I am lucky to have a Pentium II with 64MB of RAM. In this field, it’s not about what you can do with the machines, it’s more about what the machines let you do in the first place. The answer is up to you.


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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.

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