You may have wondered what I’ve been up to lately and why, even for this blog, there has been such a prolonged radio silence.

In fact, the cause of so much ‘dead air’ has been the work necessary to complete our latest software release, Campcaster 1.1 “Freetown.” We released “Freetown” this week, after a painstaking round of bug catching, optimizations and bug fixing.
Today (Saturday) I’m headed back to Freetown, Sierra Leone via Dakar, Senegal.

Now that the software is finished, we get to the fun and difficult part – getting the software to community radio stations throughout Sierra Leone. The actual installation will be handled by my colleagues, the Sierra e-Riders, so our contribution will be to train the trainers.

Believe me, anticipating problems with the software, the hardware, and the users before they happen is _really_ hard.
Over at her blog, Janet Haven says we’ll kick her in the shins for saying that developing software is the easy part. She says,

“The harder part of software for the non-profit sector is deployment within the civil society organizations that needs it, and making sure that staff members have appropriate hardware, training, connectivity, electricity, ongoing support, and access to upgrades and bugfixes.”

She’s right. My only quibble is that what we’re doing isn’t just making any old basic software. We’re unique in that we create tools, and those tools are by and for the sector we work in. When a tool doesn’t exist, and we see a need – an itch that can be scratched, to use the old Free Software term – we create the tool to address the need.

Because of that specialization, what we do is a little different from deploying general tools like OpenOffice or Firefox.

But I get the point: You could have great software, but it means nothing without the ‘infrastructure’ necessary to run it, maintain the computers it runs on, have connectivity and electricity, etc.

That’s one of the reasons I’m excited and honored to be working with some of the people who are doing a lot of that hard work – the e-riders – who really Get Things Done.

Expect more posts from me in the next few days from West Africa.

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