Why do we need to be on the ground? Part 3 – Communication lines

By | 15th July 2017

One of the issue that we have when not being in the field is how to communicate.

Access to communication is not a given everywhere, for everyone…

If we are not in the country, then we are talking about international communication. Whether we sit in Europe or in the neighbouring country in Africa. So despite being “in the field”, we do have this challenge.

Nowadays, international communications can be cheap. With the internet, there has been the development of emails, messaging and VOIP (Voice Over IP) such as Skype and Whatsapp. Use of this technology has reduced cost of communications, both within and outside the country and allowed for better connections to the world.

I remember how 10 years ago, Skype was a new tool for calls, which allowed to save on cost for calls (in-country or international) when I was in Ghana. This was the beginning of greater connections between people. And 10 years later, we have a mighty toolbox with a lot of different ways of communicating.

But, despite this available technology, there are still issues with communication lines. And not everyone can be in contact at all time, the way we know it.

And there are several reasons to this “shortfall” in communication lines…

This might be due to lack of funds for the purchase of a smartphone… it starts with this… no smartphone, no online communication… and even the basic smartphone that will allow for internet communication is often out of reach (the cheapest I have found is about $40 and of such low quality that it will not last long). It is interesting to see this side, when nowadays, we are being enticed by phone companies to upgrade every year to the latest version of our smartphone.
The same issue applies for tablets and computers that will allow for a lot more communication (I have to admit that I cannot use the smartphone for typing long texts… too small a screen, too small keyboard…)

This might be due to the lack of signal and internet coverage… even if you have a smartphone, there might not be reception in your area… In some places, there is little or no signal… people have to walk far to get a signal. And the signal is unreliable: it might or might not work that day… and so communication cannot be planned. With the right tools, it is possible, as long as you are patient and determinate. But this does take time… When it works first time, a 3 min phone call, can take 3 hours… walking to the signal and back… but then it can take several days of trying…

This might be due to the cost of internet connections… Getting online all the time is not that cheap, especially compared to available funds to cover basic costs of living (food…). Depending on the country, 1 Go of data per month range from $10 to $35. This cost can be prohibitive for some. There are ways to reduce cost a little, being “smarter” in how we use data, but still, it is an expense that some cannot spare at all.

And in addition to financial and technical issues, there is also an education issue. People do not always know how to use online communication. Because they are not exposed. For those of us who grew up without mobile phone and internet, think how it was 15-20 years ago… And for some, even today, how difficult it is sometimes to keep up with the new technology… And we are exposed to it everyday… and we always have a neighbour, a friend, a child to explain something to us…

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2 thoughts on “Why do we need to be on the ground? Part 3 – Communication lines

  1. Pingback: Communication challenge – Getting internet signal – Newsletter

  2. Pingback: Why do we need to be on the ground? Part 4 – Communication – Newsletter

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