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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