An Australian volunteer who was doing whatever volunteers do in PNG.
I was there for 2 years until Dec 2005 .. I hope I made the most of it.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Digital Divide Narrower

In the cyclical world that is the education industry we have come to that time of year again which everyone seems to dread - Registration. Multitudes of frustrated students, long queues and long hours.

I know I have moaned before and before that, but bear with me as I moan again, especially considering how this time I figured I could really make a difference and narrow the digital divide in this place. But hey this is PNG and of course there are bound to be a few hiccups.

In the time gone past, registration was a drawn out and antiquated process. Student applies to continue their course or start a new course. Student goes to bank, deposit cash into our account. Student brings deposit slip to a staff member waiting at a table. We write a receipt for that deposit and give them a three layered carbon copy registration form. Student fills in form and takes to another staff member. Staff member complete the form and double checks what they have applied for. Student signs, we witness. The form gets filed and then entered manually into the database at a later date.

A rather long and slow procedure, especially for us with that data entry part. We don't really care that the student has to run around, that's their problem.

So what I have got organised was for the two steps to merge into one. After the student gets a receipt of payment they go directly to the registration officer and they enter all the details direct into the computer terminal and straight into database. This then prints out directly onto the registration form, which then gets signed. Sounds good, doesn't it?

Anyway after various complications this is finally what we have got to happen. We managed to get a wide body dot-matrix printer that could handle the form. I managed to create a report in the database that marries up with the form fields and I got my Access savvy expert to tweak the database to have a print form button and associated query. All going to plan so far.

Then three minutes into the implementation of the process, what do we get - a blackout for 3 hours. We resort to manual registration until the power comes back on and then we discover the process does not work with new students but only for the continuing. So while they are queuing up in their numbers we scratched our heads in frustration before resorting to manual method while fixing.

Finally we seemed to have straightened it, and not before time either. Come this Friday I am out of here for two weeks and not a moment too soon. My work here is done. Either that or I won't be caring less either way.