Sunday, June 29, 2008

Progress!

I am concluding my 3rd week in-country! I am starting to feel more settled, and started having moments when I thought, "omg, what am I doing? I am suppose to live this for TWO YEARS?" People in this group are really great and I am getting quite comfortable with this solid support group. It's slightly terrifying to think that in 43 days (thanks Siobhan, for the countdown) we will be going separate ways and I am suppose to do another adjustment to yet another new place, new community, new people, and possibly another language. whoa.

I know I am still in training, but I am getting a few project ideas rolling. With StudioSTL, I am hoping to start a pen-pal program and perhaps publish some of these culture exchanges into a book for StudioSTL. My interaction with Babette, my host sister, inspired me. She's really eager to learn English and was very curious about various aspect of the American culture. I showed her the anthology that StudioSTL had published and she asked why the students were mostly African-Americans. That was my first-step in fulfilling Goal 2 of Peace Corps. I am hoping to get a pilot pen-pal program going and then fully develop the idea when I get to post.

Another idea came to mind when I was suffering at the Internet cafés these past few weeks. Technology and the sharing of information is extremely important to me. (Bad) habits die hard, and that explained my obsession with trying to get my computer connected to the Internet via bluetooth. I already feel my knowledge acquisition is greatly limited because of the lack of access to the world wide web. Learning French is that much more difficult without WordReference.com. Between me and other PCTs, we must say, "I wish I have the Internet to wiki this." at least 5 times a day.

My Mac is nearly obsolete without high-speed Internet. It's hard for me to fathom that less than 10 years ago, dial-up was the norm in the U.S. It is, unfortunately, the norm here. People don't have land-lines here and the phone company is monopolized by Camtel. There are only two cellular providers here, Orange and MTN. Last year, they were the most profitable companies in Cameroon. You can imagine why. I think it's wildly bizarre that people have really nice mobile phone here (they are no iPhones, but definitely many with bluetooth technology), yet the computers at the cyber café are "Y2K compatible". Seriously?! Y2K?! These dinosaur computers have Windows XP on them. Obviously, people aren't realizing that just because you load a spanking new operating system does not mean the computer speeds up...

Anyway, that was a really long-winded way to say that I want to find a way to get technology here. The desires to learn and the needs certainly exist. I raised the question today in tech training, and was told that there are many organizations that donate obsolete computers from the industrialized world. However, a lot of them are pure junk and don't necessarily work. People here have no idea how to fix it. So then I think, "it's probably easier to raise money and by $300 Dells than getting crappy old junk." But, virus is a big problem here. The wheels in my head then turn and think, "maybe Steve Jobs would make something simple for Africa."

I feel something like this exists already, with that laptop initiative in Asia and elsewhere. Since I am currently stuck with dial-up Internet, I will love whomever that does a little research to let me know what exists out there, in terms of getting technology to developing countries! Merci beaucoup!

3 comments:

Megan said...

hmmmm.....

Anonymous said...

You've heard of OLPC? One laptop per child? Guy wants to produce laptops as cheap as $100 and get them to all kids. Governments buy them. So find out more and see what happens.

Steve said...

Your ideas are so awesome! Pen pal idea is really cool--how reliable is the post there? Email of course is an option these days, perhaps.

The anonymous commenter who mentioned OLPC is right to point you in that direction, since that's probably the biggest initiative to date to distribute technology to the masses. However, it is pretty widely regarded as a huge failure and people like Fake Steve Jobs (links to OLPC stories) mock it as a big ego project for Nicholas Negroponte meant to showcase Linux and open source software--but at the cost of huge reliability and usability issues. I will email you a few related stories, but as much as I love the real Steve Jobs, I think this is a project for Bill Gates and his now full time commitment to the Gates Foundation. Access to technology is a big piece of their mission, and Microsoft itself funds a lot of great projects. Check out Microsoft Unlimited Potential