Delivering Telecom services in remote areas is very challenging due to the variety of issues to address, like transportation, environment, human, technical. RascomStar installation team relates their recent experience in remote and undeserved locations in DRC Congo
After having gone through all these challenges, the joy of the population able to connect to the newly installed GSM network is a real reward !
Transportation in undeserved areas is the first challenge : You initially have to find an experienced person that masters the location. Traveling conditions can be harsh and risky especially on sandy, muddy or rocky roads or by boat in bad weather condition. Boat is indeed often the unique means of access to the remote villages: common sense and field expertise is the recipe to overcome the various stumbling blocks along the way, but the key is still to plan, anticipate and prepare all the needed material like satellite phone, spare parts like tyres, batteries, and provisions for fuel, oil, and technicians, Of course there is no electricity, nor fuel, no garage on the way…
Working in rural areas requires to be very flexible and ready to adapt to local conditions : it can be a nightmare but also thrilling. You be ready to experiment all kinds of food, living places, forms of entertainment and language of communication. While some conditions might be tolerable others are more difficult such as sleeping conditions outdoor under tents or in mud hut with unbearable and annoying insects like mosquitoes under extreme hot or wet climatic condition, long-drop toilets, bucket shower bath with dirty running water in the dark or the use of candle.
In the cross cultural perspectives, be prepared to meet with people with communication and language issues, lack of respect, lack of education and abnormal behavior, and finally be ready to adapt to the system of life.
During field installations, operations and maintenance, work usually starts at 7 AM and can run till 11 PM depending on the type of activity which very complex in the case of troubleshooting. As a member of the field team, though climatic conditions might be favorable at times, be prepared also to work under harsh conditions under very hot weather or rain. Simple things like food can be become a challenge : be ready to eat just once a day, due to the fact that there is no shop, no grocery or it is difficult to find a cook and you sometimes have to do your own cooking (bring your tin cans !). Get prepared to get yourself dirty because working in the field is not office work with air-conditioning and there is no need for neatness. Again planning and preparation is the recipe for success : don’t ever think a simple screw-driver or an Ethernet cable can be found locally. Don’t ever think you can charge your electronic devices : bring your own generator (and your fuel) until the solar panels are mounted and operational !
Security is a major issue because you have to take care of your own security since you cannot rely on any security guards. You just have to be humble with people and very smart and intelligent when you deal with people. The places you sleep and work has little or no security so we might experience cases of theft, pick pocketing, double dealing. Work tools and other personal belongings has to be well kept and supervised each time you make a move.
Despite all these challenges, you have to keep constantly in mind that the main goal of the mission is to activate the various satellite and GSM sites as per the original project plan and deliver according to the customer expectation. Once the site is operational, the reward of witnessing the joy of the inhabitants able to talk to their cousin in Kinshasa or in the US , helps you forget all the difficulties faced in the past days ; just imagine that a mobile phone in these remote places suddenly has the ability to reach 7 billion users worldwide !