Monday, 21 September 2015

Blog Post on camera installations by Daniel Collins

Dear readers,

During the month of February, our Head of Operations got an email from Mr. Tunde Kushimu of NEC West Africa Limited, a subsidiary of NEC Corporation of Japan to confirm his interest in partnering with NEC to deploy 23 Thermography cameras in 10 locations in Liberia.

After accepting, he called me up from my seat that evening and asked me to read the mail he received and had been responding to. I was like “wow”! Sounds good. He said this is not all. The reason I called you is that I want to put you on this project and I trust you can do it but let’s see if this will come to reality.

I was excited with the idea of my boss but when I explained this to my department head, he said that this could be 4.1.9 which means a scam but I thought to myself again, how? By the way, we were recommended by one of our clients, the Japanese International Corporation Agency (JICA) so I said to him that this can’t be. After few days I overhead him discussing it with our Head of Operations on the same scam. I was feeling discouraged somehow for this would have been an experience for me if it works.

The news on this whole project died down for I could not hear anything concerning it but there was some underground work that was going on which I was not copy on email. Before then I was asked if I had my passport and when I said no, he quickly arranged funds to have my passport ready just in case. But I’ll tell you; in Liberia about 65 percent don’t have a passport. People only get passport if they have a chance/opportunity to travel out of Liberia. I first started to prepare with obtaining my birth certificate, which can take three to one months. The processes here is very slow, but guess what happened? Instead of them inserting male, on my birth certificate they inserted female. I took it back to the Ministry of Health to have it corrected. I filled in the form and paid the fees at the (LRA) Liberia Revenue Authority and kept the original copy of my receipt.

On the 2nd of June I was copied on the email on the specific date I would travel to Accra for the training, which was short notice for me. I could not meet up with the exact date scheduled. It was so embarrassing because I still did not have my birth certificate, which I needed to apply for a passport. The same day I went back to the Ministry of Health but it not possible to get it. I came back and explained it to my boss and he quickly gives me the contact of the Passport director. I met the lady and explained the same situation. She asked for all the previous receipts, and copy of the old birth certificate and I submitted them for her record and instructed her assistant to issue my passport without a birth certificate.

The assistant started to delay the process again after explaining the urgency of my travel. I noticed that this guy needed a ‘small thing’ (Bribe). I give him what he requested and my passport was issued to me on the 6th of June.

NATC arranged my ticket on the 8th of June to fly to Accra and the next day to Lagos.  It was nice sleeping in Accra for a night in a beautiful hotel called Eracta. The next morning I flew to Lagos and the same day the training was conducted in this address: 3rd Floor, MAKU PLAZA, No.109, Awolowo Road, South-West Ikoyi, Lagos, Nigeria for three days.  The training included setup, configuration of the camera and the survey. 

I returned to Liberia on the 13th of June.

On Monday, 15th of June I contacted the Mr James Dobor Jallah, the Director of the Ebola Command Centre of Liberia to provide the contact persons of all the sites to start my survey.

The contact persons would not provide me access. They kept me waiting all day as if I was from different planet until my boss joined me. I can tell you one thing, we don’t respect our own people and it’s very sad. You will only be recognised if you are holding a very good position before you will be recognised.

Moving on, the site surveys were completed and the installations began:
  • 1)     Robert International Airport
  • 2)     James Spriggs Payne Domestic Airport
  • 3)     University of Liberia main campus
  • 4)     University of Liberia Fendall campus
  • 5)     Freeport of Monrovia
  • 6)     Buchannan Port
  • 7)     Sinoe Port
  • 8)     Harper Port
  • 9)     Ministry of Finance
  • 10)  Ministry of Transport

Instead of the original 8 sites, we were instructed to add additional 2 sites by the Ebola Command Centre.

Installation was not an easy task. Some of the sites did not even had electricity and we had to run behind the authorities and even had to hire our own electrician.

For every site I installed the cameras, I conducted a basic training for those who are going to take/ check body temperature at each entrance (s).

Difficult sites

One of the sites that were very difficult to deal with was the Freeport of Monrovia. Authorities refused to take responsibility of the equipment installed; everyone wants to show his/her power.

Second, Harper Port and Greenville Ports were difficult due to bad road conditions. I often had to sleep on the road because the vehicle broke down.

Easy Sites

These were my favourite installations:
  1. Roberts International Airport
  2. James Spring Spain Domestic Airport
  3. University of Liberia main campus
  4. University of Liberia Fendall campus
  5. Buchanan Port
  6. Ministry of Finance
  7. Ministry of Transport
I have learned the technology is advancing every day. I had never before seen a camera that could detect the human body’s temperature. Not only that I was trained in how to use it and train others.  

The deadly disease called Ebola brought a lot of sorrow and devastation to many families to where ever it broke out, and has taken an important page in our history. Many people died from ignorance and fear. Thanks to the International Community and donor partners for seeing the need to come to our rescue.

In every community, churches, mosques, schools, hospitals, clinics and business centres are practicing personal hygiene.

I like to say thanks to the management of New Africa Technology Company (NATC) for supporting me in every aspect of this project especially Mr Haresh, Head of operations for working along with me.
I am willing to doing more in exploring my experience.

By Daniel Collins

Friday, 11 September 2015

Second visit to the art school

I went to the Visual Arts Academy in Sinkor for a second visit to talk to artists who would be interested in the Art Contest around the theme of technology. We had a good discussion. 

It was agreed we would have an application form for interested artists, provide art materials and give 7 to 10 days for the artist to submit an original work. The piece will be 20 " by 27". 

As for the question that the artists are meant to interpret, it is "What does technology mean to you."

Earlier I had thought maybe the theme would be "technology and Liberia" but the more I think about it,  it is restricting and becomes more of a stylised competition to try to capture the challenges of accessing technology in Liberia or creating a political propaganda statement about how technology would harness Liberia's growth. I don't think it would really unleash an artist's creativity. So, I think it is more humble to just try to get an individual artist's point of view! 

Stay tuned for the contest. 

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Nerd Nite

We had a great time at Nerd Nite last night, especially, Talking About Talking with Apps - By Charles Dorme Cooper and Mlen-Too Wesley. 

Friday, 4 September 2015

Hello from Randall Street!

I went up and down Randall Street several times today - thanks to Ecobank! I decided to do some banking myself today to see if anything's changed and to also see what's happening under the new branch management. I'm afraid there's not much good to report. The branch manager herself was confirming every check herself, would phone the head office, wait for someone to call back, write numbers on bits of paper, call to her staff, try to attend to several people at once, and often remark that the system was done. It's hard to believe a central institution like a Bank can run efficiently like this. It is a real pity that despite such a large presence and reach in Liberia after so many years, it always feels like you've entered the Twilight Zone when you enter an Ecobank.