by Jiten Patel

Tech basics … technology in the poor countries

Sep 03, 20083 mins
IT Leadership

To offer you little insight on the technology landscape in the countries where we operate. We operate with a “hub and spoke” type environment in each country. The “hub” is the HQ location and the “spokes” are the branches in the towns and remote locations within the country.

Our technology budget is minuscule as you would expect. And the technology landscape is as follows …

  • Operate with PC’s, printers, etc
  • Have a LAN (local area network) in the HQ office;
  • Each branch will have a PC or two or three, LAN, printer, fax machine, phones, and either a dial-up / DSL/ VPN type Internet connection;
  • Also have what we call “satellite” branches or “point-of-sale” branches which are branches with no Internet connection, just a small place or stall in a market or something akin to that … allowing us to meet our prospective and/or existing customers;
  • Have e-mail software, which at this stage is not standardized, i.e. each country uses Exchange or some other provider;
  • Internet connectivity is subscribed to, however it works well in few of the countries and not so well in others; This is the Achilles heel.

All of the above are up and running when we have “street” power running; in most places power goes up and down multiple times during the course of the day;

  • Have a UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply) just for the servers in HQ office.
  • Have a knowledgeable IT person at each HQ office in each country.
  • However availability of IT resources is very limited in most countries, and their experience may also be limited unless we are lucky … fortunately for us we have been lucky in most of the countries to have a good IT manager in place, except in the case of Afghanistan where we do have a position to fill;
  • IT vendors in most of these places are also few and far between, and so getting good support is an issue;
  • Networking expertise and support is equally an issue;
  • Currently use “homegrown” lending software almost everywhere we operate, and for lending it works okay; however beyond lending, i.e. broader banking capabilities, it does not offer much; and as our business demands change and evolve we are beginning to migrate towards “off-the-shelf” community banking software from 3rd parties for each of the four regions;

It is also noteworthy to mention that global technology vendors (such as ORACLE, Microsoft, IBM, Google, Riverbed) are beginning to offer a helping hand to us and others like us. This is really very much appreciated.

And I am sure there are other vendors who equally would help. We need telecom vendors to step up to the plate to help improve Internet connectivity whether it is Wi-Max, satellite, etc …

Now despite all these challenges we, and others like us, continue to operate in these countries and to figure out ways to work through and around these challenges.