Pounding Nails and the Reach of Technology
by Claus Mikkelsen on Jul 23, 2011
So it’s time for that all-too-rare vacation to somewhere. I’ll undoubtedly trigger an out-of-office message that says I’ll not be checking email, voicemail, or any other kind of “mail”, but probably will sneak in an occasional digital-check, if I can. That said, I’ll also be traveling in places where electricity, much less wireless, should ever be assumed.
A number of years ago I came to the conclusion that all business cities in the world are pretty much the same. Airports, hotels, office buildings, and taxis make business travel pretty homogeneous.
Not that I’m complaining, mind you. The flight upgrades, top notch hotels, and mind-blowing meals are to be savored, and certainly contribute to the enjoyment of what would otherwise be a very dreary experience, but more and more I sensed that when I traveled, especially abroad, I never really experienced the city, much less the country, I was visiting. And the people I would interact with were definitely not representative of the populations as a whole. Just like me, but with different languages and customs.
We speak a common language: Enterprise Storage. Pretty exciting, really!
That began to change a few years ago when I took a 2-week photography excursion into rural China with a (incredibly awesome) professional photographer as a guide. It was a photography class, essentially. But seeing the REAL rural China was quite a sight and an eye opener. (I’ll skip over the part where I almost got arrested for being in the “wrong place”).
That trip was followed by a Habitat for Humanity build in rural Comanesti, Romania last year. And then in January of this year yet another visit to parts, villages, and city slums of India. Realizing that 80% of the world’s population lives in conditions like this or worse not only makes one appreciate what we have, but how much more we need to accomplish.
One struggle I’ve always had being a hi-tech guy is it’s relevancy to the betterment of the overall population of the world. Who cares if I can shave 2 milliseconds from every Oracle transaction? Who cares that my backup has been de-duped? Who cares that I can thin provision a LUN and dynamically move small granularity data to cheaper storage? And who cares that we can virtualize storage and servers, thereby reducing CapEx, OpEx, and environmentals?
So who cares? About 7 billion people care. When you see a family in a small village in India – two hours away via 4WD from the nearest town – enjoy TV and have cell phone coverage to dispatch medical care when needed with recently-installed electrical and 3G infrastructure, that’s huge. To see that small Chinese village that received its first electricity two years earlier, install refrigerators and other modern appliances and coordinate the distribution of their rice crops with modern technology, is impressive.
Seeing laptops with spreadsheets in the rice paddies is just too cool. And to have a frail old man buy a beer for me and my friend in a small village in Romania, realizing that my hourly income exceeds his yearly income, well, with all due respect to MasterCard, that is priceless.
Technology makes this all possible (well, except for that beer; I just had to throw that in). The reach of technology into the most remote areas of the world is amazing to me. It’s not just the visible signs of villagers with laptops and cell phones, but the less visible indications of governments coordinating the enforcement of child labor laws, distribution of food, weather warnings, transportation, education and healthcare. I’m not expecting to sell a 200GB AMS2500 to that small Indian village, but I do see that their living conditions have improved dramatically because of the wide reach of technology.
So I’m off again, this time to a small village outside of Udon Thani, Thailand, for my second Habitat build. Rather than pounding keyboards and ticket counters, I’ll be pounding nails for 2 weeks.
I’ll see y’all when I get back.
Claus, it is good to see you spending time on worthy causes. Habitat for Humanity is one organization that people who contribute help get to connect with the people helped in an immediate manner. Keep up the good work!