4 August, 2008

The Nerdery: s02e15: On Tonga

As those who know me know, I work for a large international communications company. Not only do I get to have a part-time job doing something that I enjoy, but I also love the side benefits; being able to roll into work whenever I want, or just working from home and proving the myth that pants are optional. But this week, I'm not just sitting at my desk, trying to draw inspiration while hard at work. This week it's all around me. This week I'm in a communications room, in Tonga.

To cut a long story very short, a server that helps run one of the Tongan mobile networks died. It was supposed to be a simple job; fly in Wednesday, change the CPU, relax and fly out Saturday. In my urge to screw my carbon footprint this year and get another stamp for my passport, I didn't stop to think I'd be pulling my hair out trying to fix hidden problems, but like all things, nothing is simple. My colleague and I are now waiting for assistance from our advanced technical support centre. As usual, Murphy's law prevails.

(picture me with greasy hair putting my head in hands and rubbing eyes)

Since my first dial-up account for my 12th birthday, a decent internet connection has never been more than a short maneuver away. And suddenly I find myself in a place where, according to statistics, most people don't use the internet regularly and many have only heard of it. I knew this was the case, but it's a major shock to realise how lucky we are to have this resource, but how quickly we are to complain about it.

I'm also amazed with how loyal customers can be. Despite fierce advertising from the competition, the incumbent telco is keeping a strong hold on their market out of pure choice by the customers. According to locals, everyone knows the competition is cheaper and provides better mobile signal coverage, but the audio quality is poorer and it's not Tongan owned, and so few people permanently switch.

It's amazing what a short airplane ride can do to one's perspective. So next time you're ready to complain about how your is, or how it costs "too much", just spare a moment to think about how lucky you are that you've come to expect the world. Read that last sentence a couple times.