Thursday, July 19, 2007

Cooperation and Aid

In the “developed” world it is called “Aid”, in the “developing world” it is called “Cooperation”.

My employer has a load of computers to dispose of and is proposing to “donate”, or “offload” them to the local or rather national (in such a small country, it is the same thing) radio, TV and press agency. My colleague, friend and family, M. is pissed off the government of a developed country is offloading machines with 2 or 4 Gigabyte hard disks, 128 or 256 Mb RAM machines to his developing country.

I agree.

I worked as a VSO volunteer or cooperant (depending on whose view you took) in the Ministry of Education for my first three years here. We managed to get donations of capital items – a photocopier or a Gestetner machine, for example – but the consumables - paper, or toner or ink - no way! The consumables are invisible.

I don´t see why they should be. “We supported end-of-year exams for the entire education system this year with the donation of x reams of paper”.

Today my boss, the second-in-command, our technical chief and myself visited the radio, TV and press agency. Just at the radio, 20 journalists, the administrative department, the technical department with 12 equivalent computers between them and even less printers. And most of them not networked. And the aid agencies will not provide supplies – toner for printers, new power supplies … paper! Thirty-two LAN connections around the building and 12 computers.

We are not an aid agency …

We are not allowed (by our law) to give away computers that have not been totally wiped clean. We are not allowed to give away unlicensed software - Microsoft Windows (any version). Unsupported software (in this case Windows NT 4.0 for which we have the licenses!) and making the local media vulnerable to viruses would be idiocy (we´re not going to buy them annual anti-virus software licenses - consumables). So …

Linux! Hurrah!

Given the capacity of the computers a heavy Linux OS, such as RedHat 8.0 or SuSe 10.2 will not work … so we are experimenting DeLiOs that needs 32 Mb of RAM and has an office suite that can do MS Word-compatible rtf format … I´ll let you know.

Given the limited capacities of these computers, given the country´s lack-of-awareness of open-source operating systems and software, given the lack of capacity in the media, I think we could be doing them a favour.

And maybe we can turn the country onto open-source software, stop any piracy (not that MS, MPAA etc are likely to come here), protect them from viruses etc etc.Getting them on-board the One Laptop per Child Project would be an achievement indeed!

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