13 February 2012

What Time Does It Start?

The final of the African Cup of Nations between Zambia and Ivory Coast was clear focus of attention for everybody last night. We planned to go to Vision Community Hall, where the game would be shown on a big screen, and we would watch with hundreds of others. We got ready for a meal at 18.00 hours, to assure we all - 2 adults and 4 kids - would be ready for the game, which we 'were told' would start at 19.30 hours.

Just before the meal I went online to check the exact starting time of the final Zambia - Ivory Coast, in Libreville, Gabon. The starting time proved more difficult to find then I expected. Thus Janneke requested the info by SMS from colleagues and friends while I surfed the web and called around.

SMS from a friend: “The game starts at 19.30 hours”
Phone call with an organizer at the Hall: “The game starts at 21.00 hours”

This clearly needed more research, as to assure the kids would get enough sleep. Thus we continued communicating. Google did not yet point to a clear answer yet..

A community leader said: “I think it starts at 21.30 hours, I am pretty sure”
A leading South African website announced covering the game, starting at 20.00 hours.
SMS from an ardent soccer fan, known to walk Macha with his Zambian scarf the whole last week: “Definitely, the game will start at 21.15 hours”

The BBC website mentioned: “kick off at 19.30 hours”.

Thus kids to bed quickly, to catch some sleep. We woke them up at 21.00 hours, and went to the lively Vision Community Hall. Kick off of the final proved to take place at 21.30 hours, the hall filled to capacity, and the game finished well passed midnight with a wonderful victory for Zambia!

Back at home the kids went to bed around 01 hours. We woke them up at 06.15 hours, as usual. Upon leaving the home for school at 07.00 hours I noticed an unusual quietness outside.

The kids returned home from school around 11.30 hours, well before the scheduled 13.00 hours. They said that only 15 of the 100+ children had reported for school, to little to continue classes.

All this is a clear cut and understandable witness of the local culture's diffuse synchronicity, it particularist communitarianism, of course engrossed by an unusual external controlling event, Elephants failing to withstand Copper Bullets (Chipolopolo)!

03 February 2012

Shortage of Engineers

When traveling through Africa, wherever I go, I am also always asked to have a look at operational or stalled computers. Often I venture to check settings to get them on networks, and to check the software to keep them working. Always I find slow or not working network connections, infected computers, and outdated software. Often I find computers without virus-scanner, 'old' programs, and frustrated users. From the colleagues at LinkNet I hear that too. Wherever they go, they encounter frustrated users, and too many requests and too much work to handle.

Yesterday again, I sat at an hospital, doctoring on two laptops connected to a dedicated satellite connection. A simple change in settings solved connection issues, and I left with a number of downloads ongoing for virus scanner and software updates. Any IT engineer could have done this. But they are just not around..

On a daily basis, we are confronted with needs for engineering in water, energy, agriculture, and many more. Retention of engineers is a daunting challenge in rural Africa. Actually, there are not many engineers to start of with in the first place..

Many African countries pursue economic growth, aiming for sustainable service provisioning and access to cost-effective goods and services, as close to the communities as possible. Progress towards achievements of global and national development goals outcomes are fluctuating, certainly not helped by severe shortages of engineers for appropriate technologies. The engineering sector in many African nations is in crisis and there are shortages of engineers at every level.

Clearly one of the major obstacles to sustain the economy and to reach the goals set by the Millennium Development Goals, and working infrastructure at the local level, is the shortage of human resource in engineering.