When Technology is NOT a Good Thing

By the time we went through our fourth computer and third overhead projector, and rats had chewed through the wires of our third air conditioner; when our 6th DVD player stopped reading DVDs and our second CD player stopped reading even new discs; when my office assistant dunked our mp3 player under the water to “get the dust out of the cracks” and our fifth wireless router fried due to power surges, I decided that technology was not always a good thing.

For some reason, sensitive electronics have a much shorter lifespan in the harsh environment of developing city.  Whether it be the dust or the lack of local people’s understanding of electronics, it is important to evaluate what technology is beneficial and what is a liability.   Below I’ve listed three technologies that I’ve had difficulties with.

Projectors

In our dusty urban situation, projector bulbs had a very short lifespan.  Not only did they dim or burn out quickly, they were expensive and difficult to find.  In addition, unless you are very well versed at using software like Powerpoint or Keynote, presentations on an projector can be more distracting than helpful if your audience is not used to them.

Rather than use a projector, I suggest using a whiteboard or even large sheets of paper to make your points.  This allows for more interaction from an audience who may be overwhelmed by flashy presentations.  Another option would be a large television—especially if you want to show videos.  Televisions are affordable, most people have them and are used to them, and they have a better picture and last longer than projectors.

Computers

The dust, heat, and monsoon dampness can take a toll on your computer very quickly.  I had a friend who, after a couple of years in India, took his computer to a repair shop in the States for a hard drive problem.  The technician was astonished to find mold growing on the hard drive.  I had other colleagues who had nests of cockroaches living in the towers of their desktops.

So while computers are necessary these days, their care is vital.  Most developing nations have computer techs whose job is to clean your computer once or twice per month (yes, month!).  Covering your computer when it is not in use is also necessary.  Locking essential parts to a stationary object is also important to prevent theft.  Keep all of these issues in the front of your mind when you are deciding how many computers you need to have.  They can be a lot of work to maintain.

Internet

Issues with internet providers happen everywhere, but in a developing city they can be overwhelming.  From finding one that has decent “uptime” to running wires through and around cement walls, the sticky situations are many.

Depending on where you are operating, a business that is dependent on steady, consistent internet access is a gamble.  While there may be many ISPs around, I found that they were mostly the same in their reliability and customer service.  Sometimes the more expensive areas of town have options that are more reliable, but generally there is very little difference.  If your business is internet dependent, be prepared to do rescheduling often.

Never use technology for technology’s sake.  Always think through whether it is going to help you or make your life more difficult.