Hi, my name is Harlan Stanley.
I have an interesting project in mind that I would like to talk to you about.
I have family ties to Fiji, we visit home regularly, however not enough. AND. We would like to move there permanently for various reasons. In doing so, I’d like to share my knowledge of technology and skill sets. – I also don’t have a lot of financial resources.
There is a problem.
There are very few jobs and even fewer skilled labor. The economic situation in Fiji is poor at best, and no one really knows if it is getting any better.
Where is Everyone?
In a traditional sense, most Fijians grow up in a very rural environment, we’ll call it “The Village”
In the village you stay with your Mom and Dad, or a relative that cares for you. You attend a primary school, and from there you might go on to a secondary school (aka High School) Depending on your studies, financial capacity, or capabilities of finding a job, you either go on to college, a technical institute, or go work for a resort. Those that are unable to find jobs wind up depending on the government assistance or on the street. Another option is that you return to the Village and become either a farmer, a fisherman, or work at a resort.
Mind you the end result for most of these occupations, even the one where you wind up on the street, is pretty dismal for a land quoted all over the world as “Paradise” you’ll probably make about one United States Dollar per hour, yes, that’s right, $1.00 per hour. – IF THAT!
Average salary for a government employee is about $7000 USD.
There isn’t really a problem, it’s education, it’s someone’s future. See, once someone becomes educated they see the “light”, they go on to become doctors and educators, mechanics, and plumbers, even lawyers. Why would anyone of these professionals stick around in the village? There is no future for them there. Only the primary school teachers, fisherman or the farmer can make a “living” in the village.
So we have this “brain drain”, how can we fix it?
Introduce technology. We could introduce another field, technology, computer programming, applications development, database management, and other non-location specific types of professional careers to the Village that would allow someone to earn a decent wage while staying in the Village type setting.
How do we do this?
I purpose that we start with the kids. Children have a insatiable thirst for knowledge, they inherently want to know how things work, why they work, and how to break them. They also are capable of learning another “language” easily. Why not start a project where we can introduce these Village Kids to programming – anything – Let’s teach these kids how to have a marketable skill where they could setup up and earn income in a remote environment and instead of having a local marketplace they can market their skills to the world.
Let’s say that we start this project and have it last over a 10 year period of time, we teach the kids starting at around 7-10 years old how to type, then work them in to basic programming, database management, networking, and IT management.
We could build a small computer lab there, solar powered with an internet connection, and a backup generator.
We would setup the classrooms with three levels of computer systems, the first one would be a typing class and basic computer functionality. second class would be introduction to programming language and writing programs, third class would be full on “we’re writing code, here’s how do it, and kick butt”
A classroom of 50 computers of any caliber will get hot, and you can’t air-condition the entire building. We would have to setup thin clients connected to a VM cluster to do virtual desktops, keeping only the computer room moderately cooled down. Using the thin clients also allows you to expand and contract the classes as necessary.
Bring in a couple of teachers on a work/vacation/sabbatical type program to stay in the Village up to a year at a time and brain dump to these guys. (easy to get visitor’s visa and get an extension for one year – past that and you have to leave the country for a night or two)
How do we fund this project? Do we pay the teachers a salary? Where do we get the computers from? Who pays for the fuel for the generators?
I’m expecting that we could find some generous angel investors to fund this idea as a 10 year and possibly a 20 year project. We could then have an idea of what happens when we take a group of people that have limited access to technology, and give them a skill that can be performed anywhere in the world.
I’m not asking for 100% involvement from these kids, there will still be ones who want to be fishermen, doctors, educators, and farmers; but there will be kids who have gone historically untapped who can make a difference for this country and their Village.
How did I come up with this idea?
When I first went to the Village, I was impressed with its remoteness, I was in awe of the natural state of the environment I thought, wow, we could setup a backpackers resort here and everyone could come see this place. Then, on my most recent trip, I saw that there was other backpackers, and “exclusive” type resorts starting up around the area. I began to think wow, there’s so many resorts around, we are training the native to be subservient this is not good. I took a visit to one of the more exclusive resorts, and spoke with the owner at length. I determined that there was no way that I would become like that person, it’s not in my heart, it’s not in my mind.
Then I thought of all the infrastructure that was required to maintain these resorts, all the materials that have to be brought in, imported into the most remote parts of the world, just so that someone can “see” in comfort. This “way” is not sustainable, only by influx of large amounts of money. Example, Lautha Island Resort uses over 80,000 liters of fuel every month. Fiji is not an oil producing nation. The majority of electricity in Fiji is created by diesel generators. Garment factories have to import cloth and machines for their workers to make shirts at a very low wage in poor conditions, often working long hours and with slave driving bosses.
The software industry looks for creative minds, can be done anywhere, has a very open structure, and when successful can be very profitable. We’re only importing the hardware to do the work, not materials to be processed.
Once we have several successful candidates, those can help teach the other younger generation, along with internet connectivity, and self perpetuate the learning process so that this project could be self sustaining.
Will you help?
We need funding. I’m going to guess that in order to build a proper school there, we’d need around $350,000 USD to get the building put together and all the necessary equipment. This would not include any teacher salaries, although I’m planning on doing the educator/vacation thing – this would require dedication on the other parties part however.