9 Responses to “IT in the Field”

  1. Poze said

    thanks for sharing man

  2. Alan said

    Dear Chris,

    Very interesting article on the woes of working in the field.

    I am particularly interested in your observations of the problems of getting data through expensive connections to the tune of US60 for a mere anti virus updates.

    While there is not much I can do about most of your problems, I would like to recommend you try to use our AGE tools and contents for education in rural areas.

    Our speciality is being able to send animated contents through slow dialups in seconds for hours/days of usage. So there is no need for CDs to update your remote computers for schools.

    If used widely is good for the environment too as it dispenses with the use of paper for homework thus saving the poor students lots of money in the long term.

    More information is available at http://www.paperlesshomework.com which would explain why and how AGE would be able to close the digital divides by making contents VERY EASILY available anytime and anywhere with a simple slow dial ups.

    Further there are tools for school teachers to create their own contents.

    We are currently offering this globally free of charge to schools who want it.

    Check out these links
    On how AGE is used to reach out to the poor underserved 5 billion
    and on how AGE using legacy OS is able to overcome most problems you face now.

    And the benefits of using AGE

    Here is a link what is AGE all about

    We hope your project would benefit from our efforts.

    Our project was funded by the Malaysian government and was one of the finalists in the Stockholm Challenge 2008.

    Go ahead, try it, we can give them to you for free.


  3. OK, first, massive love fest here: Everyone’s right. Yay! Good we are talking about it!

    But if everyone is right, then how to square that Jon and I are painting a dire picture of everything not working and others are proposing perfectly reasonable, even brilliant IT solutions?

    Here’s what it boils down to, I think. The IT exists. The will exists to repackage it understanding the needs of the resource poor context. The will exists to learn about those needs (I can tell, because we are having conversations like this, and people are always asking me what the reality is on the ground). What’s missing?

    Seems to me the answer is it is the street sense of what works that is missing.

    For an example of the street sense in action, take a look at Kunnafoni’s le Source (I did a blog posting on it a few days ago). This is what the future of IT innovation in Africa looks like. With all due respect to Aptivate’s accomplishments, it’s not guys like you and me that will get real penetration, but guys like them. For another example, see DHIS — developed in South Africa, Ethiopia, Vietnam, and India (not in Maryland, Oxford, or California).

    (PS: Jon, night time updates don’t work. The generator is off then. My colleague was at home eating fufu by the light of a kerosene lantern then.)

    (PPS: It _matters_ that no one outside NGO data-gathering projects uses PDA’s in Africa. Africans get their broken phones repaired at the guy on the corner who cracks them open and exchanges motherboards and LCD’s and stuff. If he doesn’t have any dead PDA’s to mine for parts, he can’t fix the NGO PDA’s that come to him. It’s an ecosystem, and PDA’s are an endangered species.)

    (PPPS: I joked with Jon that he should start a Humanlink IT4D Certification Program and take well meaning, but clueless, IT developers on trips to the bush to see where their code will run. Perhaps if the funding agencies started requiring Humanlink-lead field trips before NGOs can start work, the NGOs would stop suggesting unworkable things.)

  4. […] Jon Thompson on Follow on to ‘IT Next to…JKE on Follow on to ‘IT Next to…IT in the Field … on Follow on to ‘IT Next to…IT in the Field … on […]

  5. […] another article sooner. I’d like to respond to some of the comments on my previous article, IT in the field, by some of the people I mentioned, Jeff Allen and Jon Thompson. I’ll include their comments […]

  6. hamish said

    Just to point out a couple of low bandwidth options for webmail. (The authors may be aware of them, but readers who come later might not be):

    The mobile version of gmail is a lot better – http://m.gmail.com

    And fastmail is great – compressed, text only, powerful interface that hasn’t changed much for a while (so works well with old browsers) … http://www.fastmail.fm/

  7. chrisw said

    There is a very interesting article about the other side of this problem, the attitude of non-technical staff to technical staff. It reflects on the problem of changing attitudes and technologies in an organisation and deploying better technologies in future, as discussed above:


    It’s written for teachers but applies equally well to any organisation that I can think of.

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