I am back in Mombasa and its 2 weeks into the trip. Its been a hectic few weeks since I arrived and there is so much to think about and reflect upon already. The overwhelming feedback so far is that the program is working. There are issues around maintenance of the computers but I am much more confident now that the issues can be resolved. I have been underestimating the capability and commitment of the local people here and as usual they have humbled me with their ingenuity and capacity to solve the hard problems. Here are some reflections so far:
What is working:
(a) Getting the computers to a port in Africa is now well understood and working.
(b) Having a single partner on the ground to clear the computers from the port is the way to go.
(c) Having multiple recipient partners to take the computers works and avoids just one particular groups interests being served.
(d) The vast majority of schools receiving the computers put in place the electricity and secure arrangements in advance of receiving the computers.
(e) Clustering schools and getting them to agree to a common maintenance policy is affordable and works really well.
Where we need to improve:
(a) Would strongly suggest using one version of one operating system only. Edubuntu version 7.0 for example. Its easier to train on and upgrade if need be.
(b) Would vastly increase the Camara Wikipedia each year as specifications on the computers increase. Would also make it homepage of offline browser.
(c) Would include a course on logo programming as it is a part of Edubuntu (just discovered this!)
(d) All Camara computers should be able to play DVDS and MP3 files.
(e) Would try to arrange printing facilities in advance with schools. Perhaps recommend a printer?
(f) Would include a number of USB keys with the computers.
(g) Would include a significant hardware course in training section.
(h) Would include spares in each shipment.
(i) Each school should get a hard copy of Skillbuilder.
(j) Create user accounts rather than root accounts
(k) Would have a 2 tier training system. First year would be basic skills, following year would be advanced skills.
(g) Need to identify a key technical eprson in each school and spend extra time with them during training.
Establishing a Camara refurbishment center here in Mombasa is definitely the way to go. This centre would be able to take in and refurbish computers from anywhere, would have the capacity to repair, upgrade and tweak computers and provide training and support to the schools in the region. In time its operations could be self sustainable through finances made from its training facilities. (I appreciate this is a sweeping statement but a full business plan has been put together and it really does look possible).
I am going to try and meet some potential local donors and groups over the next few days to see can we get this up and running before the end of the year.