in 2 days, i will go back to chad for 6 months. (i have been there for ten months in 2009) i will be working in a small computer school in the south of chad in a small town called sarh. before that there are some thoughts i would like to write down before leaving.
actual situation of IT in sarh (2009)
in sarh, computers are rare and computer knowledge is gold. typing one single page brings 1 euro, installing anti-virus software (any free version and often outdated to 3 months or more) can cost up to 30 euros. 99% of computers run windows xp sp2, cracked version. the outdated virus software and the excessive use of usb sticks let viruses propagate rapidly on computers. except the computers in our school, every computer i laid hand on was infected with viruses. most used software is microsoft office 2003.
people love computers; you can watch movies, listen to music, share pictures, record songs…etc. and yes computers are used for business as well, in banks, insurance companies, administration…so people are willing to learn an how to use computers. but they want to learn it so they find jobs more easily, which means at our school we need to run on windows xp as well, we need to teach microsoft office 2003 as well. i insisted that we teach at least openoffice 3.1 as well, however students prefer word over writer, but calc wins against excel.
internet is slow and expensive. the connection is made with one of the two mobile network providers (tigo or zaïn), downloading 5mb costs about 2.5 euros and can take up to 10-12 minutes (if connection works) sometimes it is not possible to connect for several days. updating a anti-virus software (~40mb for avg) costs almost 20euros which is the monthly salary of an average person.
actual situation of open source in sarh (2009)
our school teaches openoffice 3.1, besides ms-office 2003. which means that around 160 people in sarh know about at least one open source project. i have investigated and those people working with computers use internet explorer, ms-office 2003 (or 2007), preferred anti-virus is avira. Some people use FireFox version 2.5(due to the fact that one guy in the town had this on a cd). in a photo studio they are working on some proprietary software as well, photoshop cs3. the reason why people are afraid of learning a new product, is that the people around could not help them. there is no existent community to provide any support and often people use this as an excuse why they stick with the known software. And people find it very hard to see that two pieces of software can lead to the same result.
linux is not used by anyone, because there is no support and no knowledge. the idea to search for answers within a community (offline or online) has not come to the city yet.
starting a community
i believe people and the whole region could benefit a lot from switching over to linux. people just want to do office, watch movies, listen to music and sometimes internet. so ubuntu does all that very fine. a simple example is simply that computers would be safe from viruses, and computers don’t need to be reinstalled every two months. however the lack of support is a major barrier for switching from windows to ubuntu. as long as i am there it’s fine, however people will be helpless when i am gone without support. luckily, computer problems are often solved as somebody else has already solved it (community). so getting a little community together would be a first step towards promoting linux (open source) in chad.
from my work experience in switzerland, i know that a small community works great. our company organized monthly meetings (free and open) where anyone could present and/or listen. everyone gained, listeners and presenters, company and other companies. so my plan is to set up the same thing in sarh. a little community with the people working with computers, have regular meetings, where i will lead for the first weeks and then give the community to local hands. i hope my school will allow to have the meetings within the school itself. in sarh, people who have the knowledge of computers are not very eager to share as their knowledge brings them a good revenu.
my goal is to create a little community, talk about linux and other open source projects. i will talk on how to find help within a community. and even if no one switches over to open source software, i hope the community will remain so at least one part of open source remains in the town.
i have made a complete mirror of all ubuntu repositories and medibuntu repository, which helps to get the people together…and i can make decent installations of ubuntu.
mankind made a huge step when knowledge could be shared not only from person to person but over generations through books. to help isolated towns (no paved roads, almost no internet, no newspaper) sharing knowledge could be a revolution, because right now as a good friend once told me :’ the problem of us chadian is that we take our knowledge with us to the grave’ (he himself died few weeks later)