| November 26, 2010

Duck Tape Is Not Turkey: Thanksgiving Setting Up Kindles and Tablets in Ghana


Yesterday was a Thanksgiving like none other.  Zev, Joseph, and I, together with many great friends here in Ghana, spent the day loading e-books and charging Kindles across about 440 devices.  It was an enormous effort, but thrilling, too: no matter how much work it was, bringing roughly 25,000 books here any other way would have been all but impossible.

Some very quick observations:

* Thanks to an incredible team effort led by Zev, we got the Kindles through Customs in record time– 20 very intense hours, compared to what can take up to five months (the time 20 Macs took to move through customs for the Lincoln International School here.)  It’s the power of good planning, some amazing help from Bob Davidson at USAID, Zhen Liu at Amazon EU logistics, DHL freight, many folks at the customs clearing agency here,  pure relentlesses on the part of Joseph and Zev… and maybe a touch of good luck too.

* Speaking of the Lincoln School, Terry Donahue was incredibly generous to come in, open up the school on Thanksgiving for us to use for content loading, and then stay to help get things set up.  So much depended on having a large secure space with reliable electricity…. can’t even say how hard this would have been otherwise.

* Last week, Alex (our Director, Ghana Technology) set up a 10-megabit internet link at the school for our use for loading over WiFi…  also absolutely critical.  (Loading over the cell phone network simply couldn’t have happened, given the quantity of material we were loading, the speeds of the EDGE network, and other issues.)  Even so, each Kindle took anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour to load, and that assumed we didn’t run into one limit or another, including the 50-client limit of Apple’s Airport Express station that we found out about the hard way.

* Happily, much of what we’d learned in prior trials was put to very good use, including the needs for great power strips, sharpies and duck tape for labeling, and the creation of a production line for loading / charging / etc.  Still much to improve here, but we’re getting at least some of this down to a science.

OK, gotta go.  Huge, huge thanks to all involved, including Dave Limp, Daniel Rausch, Marc Austin, and Dave Vasen at Amazon for huge ordering + content work, Gary and Sarah Parsons in the UK for receiving, holding, and shipping the Kindles in their dining room over the weekend; Alan Padbury at DHL Freight in London, British Airways Cargo for their uplifting flexibility, Zhen Liu at Amazon EU logistics for a massive and indispensable push to get all this through many systems, Nana Baffoe and the Damco Customs Clearing team, Bob Davidson in Ghana at USAID, Joseph and friends for doing the unbelievable over and over (including standing watch over the Kindles all night when they were outside, then staying up for the next 20 hours to work the content loading and charging, and Zev for… well, there aren’t even words for everything Zev has done.

Thanksgiving has a whole new meaning.

Tomorrow: The last teacher training, meeting with Village Chiefs, and more.