With a qualification in computer engineering under his belt and looking for some real-world experience, young Tunisian Marouen Mraihi seized the opportunity to become a cyber-volunteer in Mali. He summarizes his first impressions as follows:
"Everything is fine at the moment. I admit that it took me some time to get used to life in Mali which is different from my home in North Africa. Above all, the contact with people here has given me a better understanding of local life and made my stay more pleasant.
I work for the Mali Towns' Association (Association des MunicipalitÃ©s du Mali or AMM) which is participating in the execution phase of a process of decentralization in the country. My main project is to help the Association in its mission to promote the principles and benefits of decentralization at the level of Mali's regions, towns and local associations. The most effective way identified to do this is to create a web portal grouping together all the documents and information necessary to encourage communities to look for innovative ways of using local resources and to establish inter-communal and international partnerships. I am also available to the Association for any technical assistance related to their network and computer systems, and have been given the task of studying the migration to a broadband internet connection.
Following the first project meeting to introduce the Association's portal project and the decentralization of Mali, I was given three weeks to translate the vision of the various partners in the project into technical components and to prepare a work plan for the following months.
For a computer scientist like me, the most striking technical aspect in Mali is the extensive use of the radio frequency spectrum as the main support for communication. This is visible in the number of local and regional radio stations and the size of their audiences, the fierce competition between the historical mobile telephone operator and the new private operator, and the number of Internet Service Providers sharing their satellite connections to broadband subscribers via radio local loops and microwave links."