Saturday, May 20, 2006

Restoration of Independence Day

For the first time in three weeks, we heard the sounds of ‘donut, donut, donut’ sung by two young boys as they endeavoured to sell them to the few residents that remain in Rai Kotu. I went outside to greet them but declined to buy these unappetizing treats at 5c a piece. Daniel remains partial to them, but even he did not feel like them today.

For the first time since commencing work in Timor, I went to work on a weekend. It had come to my attention in the past week or so that none of the seventeen computers at my place of work had had their virus definitions updated for the last nine months and as a result, all but two were riddled with nasty viruses.

I take my own laptop to work, as there is not a spare computer, thus I was not aware of the problem. When I asked both the office manager and executive secretary whose responsibility it was to make sure that the virus definitions were up-to-date, they both replied hau la hatene (I don’t know). Exasperated, I went and purchased, with my own money, a pirated version of Norton Anti-Virus 2006 and began loading the program one computer at a time. Quickly however, I encountered major problems as the viruses tried to prevent me from doing so. I then called in Daniel who managed to bypass some of the viruses but others were too difficult. We then called in an Australian IT consultant who began to work his way through the computers, some of which proved very complicated. In the end, we had to take a number of the computers to a shop, particularly those that required new parts due to unrelated damage caused by the lack of functioning Universal Power Sources (UPSs) and Dili’s frequent electricity brown and black outs.

It is another one of the frustrations of working in Timor. Most Timorese working in offices with computers have very little understanding of how the things work, let alone how to maintain them.

Secondly, donors do not like to fund items like IT consultants or UPSs that prevent damage to the computers during brown and black outs. The NGO I work for suffers from these problems and as a result, now has to try to find money to pay IT consultants to fix the problems and money to purchase UPSs.

Unfortunately, it is also part of Timorese culture that if someone experiences a problem, they just work around it rather than proactively seeking its solution. This definitely worked to their advantage when resisting the Indonesian occupation, but in peacetime office environments, it ultimately causes more trouble than it saves. Furthermore, the Timorese have little experience or knowledge of prevention (particularly when it comes to computers!) and firmly rely on curing problems, often when it is too late.

Restoration of Independence Day was a low-key day with the only excitement a cavalcade of Fretilin supporters roaring down the Comoro Road towards the Palacio do Governo where a small concert was to take place. At the time we were partaking in a late lunch at a local Indian establishment (affectionately named the pink palace), and heard the roar and horns of cars hooning down the main road. Along with the restaurant’s staff, we went outside to investigate. I found the cavalcade rather intimidating as the participants looked (to me) no different from angry troublemakers, rather than celebrating supporters of the largest political party in the country. I could not imagine such a scene in Australia with either the Libs or the Labs doing a similar thing, it’s completely incongruous. More like the supporters of a footy team coming home after the AFL Grand Final.

Category: Timor-Leste (East Timor)

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