In July, I had the opportunity to join a team of 37 people and spend a week helping the citizens in Progresso, Belize, a remote village of approximately 2,000 people. By design, I was fairly disconnected from my “regular life,” but still I thought about what I could learn from a technology perspective during this unique experience. There were certainly some surprises in this area as well as some reminders for when you (or your clients) travel internationally.
There was limited electricity, some running water (but no hot water) and dirt roads in Progresso, and yet I had five bars on my AT&T iPhone because of the single cell tower in the center of the village, which was operated by BTL, the government-owned telecommunications service.
The connection speed from this one cell tower was surprisingly fast considering the remoteness of our location. I could have conducted a number of work tasks fairly efficiently if I had wanted to (don’t tell my office associates — they were very forgiving about my “inaccessibility”). In fact, I was surprised by the large number of adults and teenagers in the village who owned smartphones. Granted it often wasn’t the latest version of the iPhone or Galaxy, but it was still surprising given the lack of other resources. They might not have a bank account, but they had smartphones, and they were very proficient in using them.
This is a powerful example of the reach of today’s technology, and it shows how intuitive it is, regardless of your background, environment or level of education. Yet we still struggle to achieve adoption by our employees and clients of various features of our current technology. This is a reminder to focus on the simplicity of your technology, and to regularly challenge assumptions regarding users’ familiarity or capabilities.