6-1 VIT Visit

Last week, I went to the Vanuatu Institute of Technology for a visit. They have been asking for a Peace Corps volunteer in IT for a number of years but needed on with computer networking experience. Turns out I’ve got some and might be interested in moving to Vila. How convenient.

Tuesday morning, I jumped into the truck with my Program Manager and Assistant Program Manager to head over to VIT. After a short wait in the lobby, we sat down for a meeting with the Principal, Deputy Principal, and Director of IT. The meeting was typical Vanuatu style which goes on for too long and everyone says the same thing a few different ways and is always vaguely awkward. I was told many times how excited they are that I am interested in working there. After the meeting, the IT director took the my bosses and I on a tour of the campus network. I felt a little bad for Antoine and Len as we looked at switches and talked tech. Fortunately they seemed to be fine chatting with each other.
The network at VIT is actually pretty decent. Not terribly well maintained at the moment and not living up to its potential, but has the right pieces. To talk tech briefly, they’ve got a Windows 2008 server (not running a domain), windows 7 clients, and an extensive network of managed switches (not managed) connected by fiber optic links. The switches around campus are even in mini racks that have locks on them… but aren’t actually locked. Also, they tend to be in break rooms where people eat. The rats then take leavings and go up into these safe looking boxes to eat their gains. Sometimes they eat the cords too.
The current IT Director actually seems to have a good idea of what the network needs. Unfortunately, he is kept too busy teaching to look after it properly. It also seems that his status as another teacher means he doesn’t have the clout to put the necessary policies in place, even though he knows what they are. It seems to be fairly common here for people to see what needs to be done but not be given the appropriate authority for others to follow them.
I also met the few other young men who make up the IT department. I did not get a lot of time to talk to them, but I understand they are capable at basic desktop support but not much higher level. I will also be working with them on improving their skills to keep up maintenance when I leave.
Once we finished the tour, we shook hands with the Principal and Deputy again and chatted briefly. Starting to discuss when it might work for me to start working and what that would look like. They remained very excited about the idea of having me there.
It was definitely a good visit. I feel like this could be a very good one year posting for a third year volunteer. A year should be a good bit of time to get things cleaned up and policies put in place, then turn it back over to them to run. Having lived on the islands will help me with understanding the culture as well as “street cred” with the other staff. At the same time, I can be an outsider with the authority and knowledge to put the policies in place and have some ability to enforce them. If I can do that, it will be easier for the local staff to maintain some amount of compliance. Also, if I do run out of other things, there are always plenty of viruses to deal with.
I think that VIT will be a good fit for me. My project managers also remain very excited. They have already passed my extension request letter on with enthusiastic recommendations.

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