The last few weeks in the SADS office, we have faced numerous challenges in attempting to connect to the internet and even just use our computers. It is obvious how reliant the world has become on the internet as the preferred means of communication. Liberia is no exception. As SADS attempts to conduct its work, the challenges of working with inconsistent electricity, unstable internet servers and limited computer literacy limits the ability for the organization to carry out its mission.
While SADS shares an office with Conservation International (CI), which affords it a somewhat reliable electrical source and internet connection, even this proves sporadic. A recent story will help to illustrate.
Two generators power the office. Often, midday the one generator that is used overnight runs out of fuel and the office temporarily loses power. The next generator is usually then booted up to bring lights and computers back to life. A few weeks ago, when the switch was made, the staff in the SADS office were largely unaware of the loss of power and when the second generator was turned on, the surge of power ended up blowing the battery charger for the organization’s laptop computer.
After a few days, SADS was able to find some funding to pay for a new power strip, which was a considerable expense ($80). Then, late last week the internet stopped working. Apparently there were some problems with the server and the connection into the CI office. For five days the office had no functioning internet connection.
Yesterday we were delighted to get the internet working again only to find that after 15 minutes the server crashed. And thus, we were unable to write emails or search for potential funding sources. Nor were we able to research the curriculum we hope to develop for the upcoming environmental education project.
Thus, Peter and I decided to go to an internet café so that we could at least catch up on email correspondence. We began browsing but after 10 minutes the connection was lost and we had to wait 20 minutes for the staff at the café to reestablish the connection-which remained quite slow in comparison to most connections in the U.S.
And thus, is the story of the day at the SADS office and in Liberia.
In addition to the challenges posed by the power supply and unstable internet service, there are staff members who lack basic computer skills. I have begun to train Franklin on basic computer skills but when the computer cannot be turned on and when there is only one computer for three staff persons, the ability to conduct an intensive training is limited.
These issues related to basic infrastructure for a functioning NGO are great challenges as SADS attempts to develop projects, acquire funding and build their own staff’s capacity.