i'm johan. i do things with computers. i'm from berlin

First workday in South Africa

First workday in South Africa - The car you can see is not ours!

I am currently sitting in a cottage in the woods some kilometers east of the town Hazyview in East South Africa. The 3G network is more stable and faster than I have ever experienced it in Germany.

In South Africa the summer has just ended and autumn has broken, which means that it is not getting warmer than 30°C … good for us. Furthermore it is raining every now and then cooling down the air even more.

We arrived here yesterday in the night, after a 2-days-1-night travel from Berlin to Doha/Katar to Johannesburg. We fetched our cars (decent mini-family-vans with an undersized engine, not in the above picture) and drove to our accomondation. Door to Door about 37 hours.

Today in the morning, we drove to a clinic in a rural part of South Africa. In these area the inhabitants are mostly poor, mostly black and often without a tap water connection at there home. It is one of these parts in the country where the legacy of Apartheid is visible a lot.

The journey to the clinic led us first through a very touristic area where one high-prized hotel followed the next. We then took a well-built asphalt road driving north. We left that road for a dirt road as you can see it on the picture above. After a long time (which we mainly used for regretting not to have a 4x4 offroader) we arrived at the clinic.

Clinic in rural South Africa

The clinic is part of a SAP Research project where they test the usage of computer technology in the rural primary health system. After having a tour around, we started to deploy our system. We plugged our server into the local network and set-up terminal test computers.

Then we spoke with the hospital staff about their processes and their opinion on our system. The buglist piled up fast … but so did our understanding of how things work in the clinic.

One of the biggest issues for us during the tests was the language, because even though the people speak english, it is sometimes hard to understand them. Which is the same for them with us as well …

During our stay technicians showed up at the clinic to install a satellite dish for an internet connection. They have not succeeded yet in installing (“we have to cut down some tree branches, otherwise we cant see the satellite”) but they will hopefully do so tomorrow. This internet connection will allow us to maintain the system from germany and to get feedback on the usage of it.

We finished the day with driving to another clinic and having a talk with the staff about their processes and opinions.

On thing, that astonished me during this day, was how near first and third world are. From a shopping center of european standard to an area, where people walk on a sandy half-destroyed road carrying tapwater to there home in less than 20 minutes.

During the next days we will continue working in the clinic, finding out how we can introduce real-life meaning to our bachelor project (and eventually make some sort of scientific sense with this trip).

(read the second part of the report here)