17 February 2009

Heeding Calling

Often I am asked: "why do you live in rural Africa". This in the context of having the option of living somewhere else, for instance in the West. This is the big WHY question. The answer is: I live where I sense my calling, I am within my purpose.

Purpose is the driver. Without purpose, what do we do? I believe we all have a unique purpose, and thus it is important to know that purpose. We are all unique, and thus have a unique purpose. Taking it to the extreme: competition signals that possibly one is doing the wrong thing (activity), is in the wrong area (location), or in the wrong season (time period).

When working in line with the purpose and calling one can be effective, and make sense of it all. It provides a strong inner drive towards action, whatever the circumstances.

Entities exits to be a home for where people are together, and combine their individual purposes to bring about a common purpose. It might need metaphysical or religious experiences to know one's purpose, and recognize where people combine in the common cause, the international community. This valid in the whole world, both in the South and in the West. In the West, where individuality is a driving force the common purpose will unite people. In the South, where people's individuality is an expression of the common purpose, it start the other way around, but all with the same result.

How does one find out the purpose governing one's life? There are many books in the subject and much motivational literature. I found Rick Warren's Purpose Driven Life interesting, and Reuel Khoza's Let Africa Lead. A good talk among friends, time for introspect and needs assessment, contemplating and prayer in the fields of what does one hope for, where one does have faith for might lead somewhere. In any case, it is often a process of seeking and finding.

Calling will give the energy to stick it out, to keep going when the going gets tough, energy for breakthrough when there are obstacles. Calling will help to stand up for what is right, to shed inhibitions and ignites a person to be more then a conqueror. It also helps to live unhidden, wherever and whenever. It guides the environment - including family and friends - with a base for understanding the reason of otherwise sometimes difficult to understand action and perseverance.

Purpose will give reason to connect. It births optimistic action. Optimism gives energy. Negativism drains energy, so lets steer away from that.

Calling will allow dreams to be dreamed. It can provide sense of excitement, testing and weeding of burdens. It provides for hope, and engenders faith. It allows growth, entry into the impossible.

Knowing one's calling is prerequisite for engendering change, both internal and external. I have the privilege to live in a fast changing and challenging environment. Heeding to my calling is one of the reasons why I live in rural Africa and not anywhere else.

10 February 2009

Excruciating costs of Internet in rural Africa

Looking at budgets for operations in rural Africa the costs of Internet bandwidth are major and excruciating. Strangely, it seems one of the least known or understood hurdles for development. It is difficult to stomach that we pay thousands of USD per month for internet connections with 'speeds' that the West considers peanuts. In the West one gets 1 Mb/s connectivity wholesale for less then USD 20 per month. For us in landlocked Africa, such connection costs wholesale between USD 3,000 and USD 4,500. When one has to opt for lesser speeds and shared connections, significantly higher prices are calculated. Basically, we in rural Africa pay thousands of times more for Internet connectivity then one pays in the West.

There are not too many websites that mention this situation. In reviewing pricing of satellite capacity, like-for-like comparisons are almost impossible. When preparing for Macha over six years ago, I spend one year studying pricing and service options before being able to make an informed decision. Cost/benefit ratios are masqueraded in the plethora of price/offerings and quick overviews do not show multiple issues involved. In the mean time the situation on satellite capacity pricing, and availability, has significantly deteriorated. For instance per 1 January 2009 our prices have gone up with at least 10%.

There is some movement in the situation. Major institutions and companies show interest, and sea cables are emerging. There will be a learning curve, and there is lots to learn about the way Africa works, and it remains to be see what will really emerge.

The world must recognize the current role they play in keeping Africa in darkness. Current high prices for access to satellite technology, crucial for Africans to connect to the Internet, are really problematic. Of course, with economic principles, capacity constraints lead to higher prices. But, as also we at Macha Works are showing real and major social benefits, and growing demand for special user groups, breakthrough and more providers provisioning capacity over Africa must emerge, with prices going down instead of current rising of prices.

I will continue to write comments and air views on this issue, as in Free Internet for Africa and various websites.

03 February 2009

Resource alleviation collateral

Peculiar observations can be made in an environment where resources are being added within a situation of poverty. When resources appear - and a situation with nothing changing to something - there is a significant amount of new stress added to the scene. The stress of resource allocation.

Poverty - which is the shortage of common things such as food, clothing, shelter and safe drinking water, all of which determine quality of life - influences everything. Rural Africa has also major shortages in electricity, transport, communications, housing, finances, education, and health care, to mention a few. When such resources become available, often those with access to such (still rather limited) resource pay a high price, both financial and intangible.

One has to get used to the availability of the resource, even if it is just emerging. Complexity is added when the resource is shared, and it all becomes even more complex when it is shared across cultural or age boundaries. Often those with access to the resource harbor implicit or even explicit distrust of the other with whom the resource is shared. Resource limitations feed distrust that the other is misusing the resource.

Resource allocation, which is the assignment of the available resource, is mostly defined - and organized - in a rational way. Challenge is blending 'resource allocation' in the relational, rural African cultural way. In such environment resources are shared and catered for quite differently, with responsibilities valued higher then rights.

Currently we are fortifying the scaffolding for the works at Macha, with Zambian management and international volunteers. When that scaffolding is gone, wholesome grown resources should be environmentally sound and sustainably embedded and available. Scaffolding goes with rules and requirements, which go with expectations. Guilt, and shame, and judgment follow suit, and thus hurt, especially in cross cultural environments with wide varieties of people and expectations. Management in poverty situation often equals management of hurt.

Engendering trust, over borders and cross cultural, turning expectations based upon regulations towards expectation based upon relationships, that is what must guide resource allocation in resource limited environments; All tests of character.