Congo IT Adventures

MAF Live Report from staff on the ground in Africa
As I sit here at my desk in Bunia, D.R. Congo, I can’t help but think of the day I had yesterday and laugh.  I’ve only been in Congo a couple of weeks, and really only started working on IT projects a few days ago, but I’m finding the adventures come quickly—and in no short supply either!

Here in Bunia, MAF provides Internet access to a number of missionaries, humanitarian organizations, and churches through a wireless network connected to our satellite Internet system. To connect clients to our system we put up a pole in their compound with a WIFI antenna on top that communicates with our base station antennas. In this way we are able to provide critical communication opportunities to homes and offices which are scattered across the town. The ability to communicate is paramount to the doctors, pastors, pilots, and aid workers ministering here in Congo, and I’m thankful I can serve them with my IT skills.

Yesterday I needed to go to a client’s house to troubleshoot a connectivity problem. The cable that ran from the antenna to the house had been damaged. Water had been leaking down through the inside jacket into the house and had actually shorted out the antenna’s power supply. Both the power supply and cable needed to be replaced.

The adventure began when one of our Congolese staff members picked me up to take me to the house.  I don’t speak much French or Swahili, and he doesn’t speak much French, so when we ended up going to the wrong place initially it was quite the circus. After two phone calls, conversations with three different people, and five minutes of driving around (there are no street signs or house numbers here) we finally made it.

John Gorenflo installs antenna in West DRC

Similar installation done by John Gorenflo in West DRC

The adventures continued with the equipment installation. I just had to climb up on the roof with the client’s guard, undo some guywires, gently lower a 20-foot steel conduit to the rooftop, install the new cable, and run inside to swap the power supply. Simple, right?

Well, after the guard ran next door to borrow a tall enough ladder, we shimmied up the steep tin roof.  It crackled noisily beneath our feet as we tried desperately not to fall off; the conduit crashed to the roof; when we put it back up the antenna was facing the wrong way; and we had to fire up a generator just to test the power supply because the house had no power. Not so simple. In the end the client was happy to be back on the network, and I got a great story to tell about doing IT for MAF in Congo.

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