Tag Archives: ict

Peace Corps Tech Support

I was in Nairobi all last week, keeping very busy. What was I doing, you ask? Providing technical support to the myriad of volunteers in Nairobi. It was In-Service Training (IST) for the latest group of Secondary Education volunteers and they needed some help with their computers. The problems ranged from viruses to faulty software to a little bit of Open Source promotion on my part. Overall, it was really good to stretch my brain in this way, and of course it’s always a pleasure seeing the smile on a friend’s face when their computer woes have ended, at least for the time being.

It also highlights yet again the changing nature of Peace Corps. Whereas before some might argue that the most technically challenging component of service was maintaining a bicycle (though for a while volunteers did have vehicles), computers are becoming a more and more important part of a volunteer’s service, and I have heard several volunteers remark that having computer skills and access to the resource is actually the biggest benefit a volunteer can bring to his or her organization. It is increasingly critical to maintain the health of the computers. However, there is not necessarily a correlation between the increase in computer maintenance needs and the maintenance skills of the volunteers themselves. Peace Corps should start to look at formalizing policies regarding volunteer computer maintenance, repair and technical support if it is going to keep its volunteers relevant and helpful to the host countries in the 21st century.

While in Nairobi, I also provided some tips on how to teach computers. I hope they were helpful.

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A New Schedule

I think in an entry a while back I may have informed my readers that one of my primary reasons for sticking with Peace Corps has always been that each and every day brings about a chance for something totally random to happen. Last week, my life took one of those unexpected random turns, and now that the spinning has stopped and I am starting to see straight again, I thought I would write about. Apparently, I am now teaching a full Information and Communication Technology Technician course here at NYS.

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Projects 2010

Every once in a while I like to update people on what I am actually doing here in Kenya besides writing what can only be described as copious amounts of blog posts… for a Peace Corps volunteer. Here be the list of projects as they stand at the beginning of 2010. It is always interesting to watch how the list morphs and evolves as the year progresses.

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More Help Desk Support

I can never seem to escape the duties of the Help Desk, even in Kenya.  If you look up at the top menu, you will now notice a link to the IT Help Desk.  That is a new section of the blog that will be devoted to pages and articles pertaining to IT Help Desk-type issues here in Kenya.  I have moved the, “Laptop Care,” page there as well as the new, “Low Bandwidth Surfing Tips,” page.  The second page is not finished yet, and you can expect the whole IT Help Desk section to grow over time into what I hope will be a useful collection of tips for anyone bringing tech abroad into the developing world.  Asante!

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The Developing Web

Below is an idea I posted to the development-ideas website Africa Rural Connect, hosted as part of the Peace Corps Connect program.  If anyone wants to run with it, feel free!  I don’t currently have the time, but would also never want to hinder the development of an idea which I think could help a number of people.  The idea as written here is slightly modified.

The link to the original idea page is here: http://arc.peacecorpsconnect.org/view/960

For the past 10 months that I have lived in Kenya, working in ICT, consulting with individuals and their ICT needs, I have noticed an increasing trend towards the web, something which should be expected and of which this site itself is a product (referring to Africa Rural Connect: http://arc.peacecorpsconnect.org).  However there is still a distinct lack of NGO’s and CBO’s who might benefit from a web presence making proper connections with those who could enable them to have the presence in the first place.

What I propose is a web portal along the lines of Lending Tree (“When banks compete, you win!”).  Freelance Kenyan web designers and studios, of which there are many, would be able to use this portal to pick up contracts, but with a catch.  The portal itself would moderate the pricing and agreement structures to be much more CBO and NGO friendly.  It would also work to simplify the whole process of creating a web presence, such as domain registration, hosting space, etc.

On the other hand, the freelancers and studios would have to agree to accept the lower fees, and agreements would also have to be negotiated with hosting providers to provide less expensive services.  Consider it a corporate-social-responsibility angle to the web development world.

Finally, the portal would also have a preconstructed pack of open source software designed to ease development of e-commerce sites and donation sites.  Both of these can be tricky to implement, especially for new developers, so providing a known and trusted solution available to all contacts on the portal would increase the website’s potential revenue generating abilities.

Admittedly, there is room for expansion in this idea, as with any idea.  Things that come to mind immediately are a sliding pay scale, where let’s say a handicrafts site starts selling really well and making a profit, then the hosting provider might be allowed to slightly increase the rates to compensate for increased traffic.

The desired effects of this idea are many.  First off, I would like to create a single-solution place for fledgling Kenyan web developers to go to sharpen their skills on smaller-scale projects where there will still be some compensation.  Second, NGO’s and CBO’s will finally have a trusted organization easing them into the new and confusing frontier of the world wide web.  Third, a more “development friendly,” pricing system will get more ideas on the web, and if combined with the trusted donations and e-commerce software solutions, potentially become a true income generating activing for a group.

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