We received some refreshingly positive news last week from our Tech Share project on the other side of the globe. Anyone who has followed our efforts knows this has been slow going. Some difficulties that we anticipated have persistently dogged our efforts, and a couple unexpected roadblocks popped up, as well. It felt like we were taking a step back for almost every pace forward.
We did a lot of prep for obstacles like shipping snags, damages incurred during transit or setup, security of the computers in the school, teachers with no computer experience, costs running higher than quoted, and the like. For the most part, our advance preparations helped us bypass these issues.
However, the popularity (and scarcity) of the Eee PC when we were sourcing them a year ago set us back a couple months, which was the longest unexpected delay. Then over-zealous customs officials applying Ugandan tariff schedules in, well, "creative" and "dynamic" ways sat on the computers a few months while we
disputed negotiated wasted time, before paying the ransom. The latest snag involved difficulties with ensuring that the lab was truly secure and supplied with power.
Additionally, there is the to-be-expected disparity between how we would attack these problems were they to confront us in our environs and how the over-worked administrators of a grossly under-resourced school in a poverty-stricken urban setting within a developing country address them. We’re learning to exhibit patience but not passivity, to communicate urgency and provide measured assistance with appropriate expectations.
Feeling like we’ve hacked through a thicket of obstacles and just emerged into a bright clearing, I’m thrilled to say that the students of Ebenezer Educational Center in Kampala, Uganda have finally been able to spend some time with their brand new Asus Eee PCs. There are still loose ends to be resolved before the lab is established as a fixture at the school, with Internet access, but we’ll keep on this in pursuit of those goals. For now, just check out the looks on these kids’ faces.
Over a year ago, we asked for donations to help us make this concept a reality. We received over $7,700 from you, our readers, and several hundred dollars of donations and discounts on hardware from sponsors. With the largest hurdles behind us, we still have about $1,700, which we hope to direct toward getting the school Internet access for at least six months. There are other needs we’re considering as well, such as a printer/copier and some basics like consistent access to reliable power and better furniture and fixtures for the school. As soon as we’ve fully attained our original goals, we’ll see what funds are left and evaluate what their greatest needs are to see whether we can extend this project or possibly help in other ways. We’ll keep you posted.