Thursday, 24 November 2011

Latest Loft Pictures


English Improvement Classes

Contributed by Jane Wright

Jane with James, Patience, "8's Cece", and Patrick

When Farzana asked me if I could do weekly English Improvement classes with her staff I was delighted. I am in Monrovia with my husband who is working here on an E.U. project and I was so pleased to be able to do something which will help the company and the individual staff members.

The aim of the sessions has been to help the staff improve their use of English so that they will be more confident and successful in producing the various reports and records which are required by N.A.T.C.

The weekly exercises are based on a range of stories and articles which lead to improved vocabulary and provide a stimulus for discussion.

Each week we cover a basic aspect of grammar. So far we have looked at parts of speech, punctuation and sentence structure.

Some of our work is oral and some written, with a homework assignment to complete every week.

Card activities allow for elements of competition and creativity and lead to some amusing situations!

The group are very enthusiastic and hardworking and the sessions always pass very quickly.

Over the next few weeks we will be working on the writing of personal blogs which will be posted here so look out for them!

NATC is a young and dynamic company who have a very creative approach towards the achievement of their aims, putting staff training high on the agenda and recognising that a capable and confident staff will be the basis of future success.

I wish them the best of good fortune in the years to come.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

The Fibre Optic Cable Has Landed in Liberia

Contributed by Farzana Rasheed


The eagerly-anticipated fibre optic cable has finally landed in Liberia. This is an exciting moment for the country to say the least. This is the first public private partnership which made this happen. To read more about it, check out this article: "First Fibre Optic Cable System Lands Here." 

There's also a wikipedia article "Cable Consortium of Liberia". 

There are some photos posted on Facebook by Liberian Observer Online of the moment when the cable landed on Thursday, 3 November which was coincidentally the national Thanksgiving Day. 

Deployment of the fibre optic cable infrastructure in the country is going to take some time. There is also an assumption that the cable will immediately replace the current dependence on more expensive technologies such as V-SAT. Not only will it take time to deploy the fibre optic infrastructure but also given Liberia's lack of infrastructure outside of its main centre (Monrovia), connectivity will still depend largely on V-SAT and GSM technologies which are expensive. Of course, it also remains to be seen what kind of average costs broadband will have in Liberia. 

One of our colleagues and friends who is a V-SAT operator in Liberia was quite underwhelmed when discussing fibre optic cable. He told us that Nigeria has three of them and yet the V-SAT business is roaring there. 

So, it remains to be seen how the fibre optic cable will change the dynamics of the business environment in Liberia. Will V-SAT providers be driven into extinction? What business opportunities will be created for IT companies? How soon will the average entity or household in Liberia be connected to high-speed broad band internet?  What kind of prices will we see? And lastly, what will it be like to finally have high-speed (relatively) low-priced internet service?

Meanwhile, NATC is representing an international company that has submitted an Expression of Interest (EOI)  to Liberia Telecommunications Corporation (Libtelco) for the Liberia National Fibre Optic Project. Keeping our fingers crossed!

* Image from

Friday, 4 November 2011

How to Re-size/Save and Email Scanned Documents Most Efficiently

By Haresh Karamchandani

I got an Invitation to Bid from a UN organization yesterday that was 21 pages long! Normally I would just scan a document on my Dell V305 Scanner, save it on my desktop and then attach to my Outlook email. The size would be in excess of 1MB per page and would take very long to send as the internet speeds here in Liberia are pretty slow.

This time around I had to figure out an easier and faster method.
This is how I went about it:

Step 1 
Open “Windows Fax and Scanner” from your start menu.
Step 2  
Lay the document to be scanned in the flatbed scanner, then click on New Scan.
The document will be scanned onto your computer. Then click on save image and save it on your desktop by giving it a suitable name. In my case I named it UN ITB for Tools page 1.

Step 3  
Continue the same process until you have scanned and saved all the pages on your computer desktop.

Step 4 
Go back to your desktop and open the saved page 1 with “Microsoft Office Picture Manager”.

Step 5
The document will open then click on Edit Pictures…, Then click on Compress Pictures and
Choose Compress for document. The file will compress by at least 90%!. My document
Compressed from a 1 MB size to 70 KBs. The click on file and save the document before you close it.

Step 6 
Continue the same procedure as in Step 5 for all the remaining pages on your Desktop.

Finally Step 7 
Open Outlook Express email. Open new email. Then attach the pages one by one, or alternatively you could further compress all the pages in 1 zipped folder and then attach this zipped folder to the email and send in one go!

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Weekly English Classes

Contributed by Farzana Rasheed

In an effort to re-inforce some basic English grammar, spelling and syntax amongst our Liberian staff, we have been regularly holding 'classroom' sessions at our office. This has entailed weekly spelling and vocabulary tests where we started off with 20 words and kept adding new ones every week. The words I selected were quite random, ranging from IT buzzwords to really basic words. 

I was pleased to see how enthusiastic and competitive the staff is in response to these tests. I found that my staff was writing down words as they thought it should be pronounced. So, not only was there a gap between how some words are and should be pronounced, but a gap between how it is spoken and spelled. The girls especially have been extremely excited about making sure they got their words right and, making an effort to also understanding the meanings and enrichen their vocabularies. 

Why are we going to such lengths to go back to language basics? Well, first of all, my general impression is that the current education system in Liberia is not producing high school or even university graduates that are equipped with basic skills and knowledge. I often encounter some surprisingly glaring mistakes in written communication. So, I feel that I should try to expose staff to the correct usage and expression. Secondly, NATC produces a lot of paperwork! We have call logs that need to be filled out each time we are on site. We are also often requested by clients to file monthly reports. 

I have been providing feedback to staff on the call logs they write and, encourage them to be more precise, use the technical words, and to write self-explanatory summaries of what they accomplished on site. What was the problem they encountered and how did they diagnose it? What was the problem resolution? Where there any challenges? Call logs have started to improve but we are still a long ways from staff being able to produce monthly reports, to capture what happened, to be able to summarise key points and reflect on challenges and recommendations on improvement. It sounds a bit bureaucratic but monthly reports don't have to be! They can be crisp and delightful without going on and on. 

It is work in progress and in a short time, our staff will get to a point where they are able to capture what it is they are accomplishing on a call log, monthly report or blog entry. 

Meanwhile, we have been extremely lucky to have a wonderful lady, Jane Wright, come in and conduct basic English grammar lessons. She's been coming in for the past 3 weeks and, given she has been a teacher and social worker in the past, she is much more patient than I am. I have usually been working inside my office and only come out once or twice to take a peep, but I often hear jolly laughter and excited exclaimations from Jane and the staff. 

Jane will also be writing about her experience but in the meantime, I would like to share some pictures of the classes.