Ghana Update V
Oh, every day has such ups and downs! It’s hard to compress it all here. Immediately after the last update, I think I gave the talk of my life – the kids in the afternoon were a lot more jazzed up than the morning kids, which shouldn’t be surprising – I mean, if you had to
get up at 8:30am during your summer break to sit inside, would you be excited? I was so exhausted at the end of the day that I went right to bed without dinner at 8pm. Part of the reason why I crashed so early was that we had to get up at an insanely early hour to get on TV. That’s right, we were on “The Breakfast Show” live at around 7:00am local time. Woot, state television! After the interview, we went to the ICT Centre to get setup and also to welcome Ghana’s Minister of Education (who actually came today instead of as planned
yesterday). Peter managed to run out and grab some pastries for us, which was a real Godsend considering that I hadn’t eaten since the prior day’s lunch.
After the minister left, all hell broke loose. I was trying to teach a class about email, and a media team from GTV was very loudly navigating the room and asking people questions. Then the DNS server at the ISP died and nobody could do anything. Then it came back up and the power promptly went out. For half an hour. It is *hard* to teach email without power, but Clara and I gave it a valiant tag-team shot; I joked at the end that we should have a David-and-Clara Technology Show…which would be great provided we don’t kill each other first. Then the power went back up and I was walking kids through registering for Yahoo Mail. Which doesn’t have an option for “Ghana”. And which keeps kids under 13 from registering — which is most of our campers. Oh, and when we finally worked around all those issues and started registering campers, Yahoo blocked our IP from new registrations, probably suspicious of a bunch of new registrations from a singular, African IP address. Augh. And all of this is with web pages with load times that make modem access in the US look like broadband on steroids. 🙁 I just wanted to cry, especially when we ran across campers that were having trouble registering for Yahoo Mail because they couldn’t even read the word “cat”. literally. 🙁 Clara pointed out that it’s possible that things
like email are just a little too advanced for some of these campers. I guess I do have very high expectations for these kids; I have a general philosophy that people will rise to the hopes and expectations you have of them, but in some cases, she may be right. I am pushing these kids pretty hard, even while trying to be as fun and goofy as possible.
Ah, such highs and lows! It’s great to see the excitement that these kids have for computers, how cheap everything is, and the passion the adults and government have for getting technology into the kids’ hands. But Internet connections that regularly drop, power that is not at 100%, and 1500ms ping times make life on the Net very difficult here in Ghana. I think some software would have been written differently if it were to better accomodate connections like these; a great example is DNS, which has a 2 second timeout by default. But if the server takes more than 500ms with a request from a connection with a 1500ms RTT, it’ll count as a no-answer. So many websites are actually wholly inaccessible from Ghana, crazily enough – DNS simply doesn’t allow their names to be resolved. I’ve gotta go – time to eat a quick lunch and prep for the afternoon session. Wish us luck!