Working without the internet in Timor
- No email.
- No quick google searches to solve a problem.
- No youtube.
- No facebook.
- No hours lost through browsing the world wide web.
Yep, nothing. There was no internet because we couldn’t afford it.
Most days I would leave work and catch a cab straight to the $2 internet café in Audian to get my hit. It was painstakingly slow, don’t-even-think-about-uploading-photos-to-facebook-because-it’s-just-not-going-to-happen slow. I got used to being deliberate with my time. Emails had to be downloaded, read and written at home because it took too long to do this in the café. I read books while browsers were loading. I gave up looking at news sites and blogs. It was the internet in its most simplicity, exactly like back in the old ‘dial up’ days.
Working with the internet in Timor
But, in reality, having the internet didn’t do anything for us. Well it did certainly open up some peoples mind about porn and Facebook. Did you know Indonesia has the fourth largest number of facebook users? (40+ million) And taking Indo’s lead, our office was spending hours and hours on Facebook and YouTube. To make matters worse, a once peaceful work environment became a battle field as fights would erupt each afternoon about who would get to take the internet dongle home with them.
I suppose the only good thing to come out of having the internet was it allowed my counterpart to research how he could build an antenna to pick up the free Wi-Fi from the Presidential Palace at his home. It was a contraption he made out of wire, a pole and a tin can; amazingly, it worked. Now that’s innovation and it seems someone else was impressed too because it was stolen off his roof one night when he was sleeping.
So the best thing so far to come out of having the internet was more internet.
I thought long and hard about how we could get more out of the internet and then I realised, aren’t they using the internet as it’s intended? Isn’t accessing Facebook, email, YouTube and porn exactly why you or I use the internet?
Nup, I wasn’t going to hinder them, I was going to help them.
Example of real dialogue I used in a lesson about social media:
“Okay so if you take a sick day from work, when you are not sick, make sure you don’t go on Facebook and say you are, for example, on a holiday. Because you might be friends with your boss and they will see your status update and know that you are not actually sick.”
Ah working in international development, you never know what each new work day will bring. But on a more serious note, if you find yourself in a similar situation, with a donor begging you to get the internet for “emails” well hold off for as long as you can. And if all else fails, do consider making your own free Wi-Fi can!
- There is currently only one internet provider in East Timor, Timor Telecom. But, that’s subject to change very soon as the government has just changed the law to allow other service providers to operate in the country. Here’s to smashing that monopoly!
- It’s also recently been announced that there will no longer be free Wi-Fi at the Presidential Palace. So disappointing, I’m going to miss seeing the hundreds of East Timorese teens perched under the huts with their laptops.
- There are a few internet cafes around Dili, it’s best to shop around because they vary in price dramatically.
- Some hotels (Hotel Esplanada, Aru, Hotel Timor) have Wi-Fi which you can purchase and use on their grounds.