Creating Solutions: Training and Connection Are Key
Information Technology (IT) personnel from Bible translation organizations all across Africa—and beyond— recently gathered for two yearly IT Connect conferences. Some traveled to Burkina Faso for the French speakers’ conference; others to Ruiru, Kenya, for the English conference. Some were first timers; others have come regularly for several years. All came to learn—to attend seminars and workshops focused on technical issues or to participate in opportunities for hands-on training. And they came to share ideas, solutions, and experiences as a cross-cultural community of workers committed to the Great Commission.
Their organizations rely on technology to move forward in Bible translation. Every office needs staff who can repair computers, install and maintain software, and back up files. They need well-trained specialists to keep their networks, Internet, and power systems running smoothly. But technology is a fast-paced field— not a “learn once and done” skill.
Bill Mayes, the Africa IT Services coordinator who organizes and oversees the yearly IT Connect conferences, emphasizes that ongoing training is critical: “Professional people must keep grooming their skills in order to remain relevant in serving.” For Mayes, the goal of IT Connect is to “equip and encourage” the IT specialists who provide the vital support Bible translators and language workers need.
When 15 IT support specialists gathered at the French IT Connect conference in February, they were concluding a full year of network management training. During the previous year, Jacques Akplogan, IT consultant for French-speaking regions, had met individually with these IT workers at their translation centers. He arranged for them to participate in a year-long network management course. At the conference in Burkina Faso, Akplogan taught them as they completed final course modules and practiced the content of the lessons. He and his colleague Richard Young will continue to coach the specialists when they return home and begin to use new skills.
Two colleagues from Togo, Patrick Dai and Didi Dzah, shared their personal highlights of the French conference. Patrick emphasized the technical value: “I discovered many theoretical things I did not know before … and raised my level [of skill] in network security, Linux, and Windows environments.” Didi expressed a different perspective: “This training has changed my life a great deal. The teamwork and sharing, the atmosphere here, does me good. And it has allowed us to have a role in God’s work.”
The English IT Connect conference, held in March, drew 28 attendees representing 16 countries. A full slate of technical topics provided ample opportunity to update knowledge and problem-solve operational issues. Daily times of worship and prayer offered spiritual encouragement. Reviewing personal growth plans with conference leaders added incentive to continue improving technical skills throughout the coming year. First timer Burje Duro from Ethiopia described his excitement to be joining with a “variety of committed, passionate, and skillful IT persons from all over the world [who are] working together.” Nate Marti, Central African Republic, is new to IT support. He welcomed the opportunity to profit from the wisdom and experience of other attendees and to know that he can email them for help when he needs it.
For the second year, the English IT Connect was held in collaboration with the International Conference on Computing and Mission Africa (ICCM). Participants from other mission organizations throughout Africa joined IT Connect staff and attendees to further advance their skills and network with colleagues.
All the IT specialists returned home, refreshed with up-to-date information and new skills, knowing they are connected through a shared vision to an international community that provides a vital service for the work of Bible translation.