Published: October 12th 2009October 6th 2009
Day two in Cambodia, and P had organised for us to visit Jotham at the Yejj training school. Yejj
run a number of different types of training programs including some hospitality and some IT training. Obviously I found the IT side of things quite interesting - they do basic Microsoft type training, along with CISCO training (networking stuff for the non-nerds reading this). What I found more interesting was that Yejj also have a web department, which employs nationals who have completed an IT degree. They mostly work with companies in Europe, generally building relationships with IT companies who deal with the end clients and outsource to Yejj Sometimes they do whole websites, sometimes just a component (like a shopping cart etc)
I found it quite interesting looking at off-shoring from the point of view of the offshore company, and took the opportunity to ask Jotham a lot of questions about how they maintain quality, how the standards of education in Cambodia compare to that in Australia and what the other issues they face are. I think one of the things that I hadn't really fully considered was that the majority of IT resources tend to be written in English (and very very few are available in Khmer). Everyone on the team is able to speak English, but to be able to understand quite technical explanations of abstract concepts in a second language requires in a second language is actually quite difficult and thus time consuming. Additionally though internet access is fairly cheap in internet cafes, it is quite expensive to have it in your home, which makes it even more difficult for people to do research and learn outside of work hours
[Non nerds may like to skip this next paragraph...]
Yejj provided me with a lot of food for thought - I can definitely see how off-shoring can be a really good thing for developing nations - creating jobs and providing income (and after spending time with P in Poipet I have far more of an appreciation for how important job creation is - more on that later!) Having also experienced being the client of an off-shored project I've been thinking about how you make the model work better. From my limited experience I found that communication and quality of work are big issues, which I expect is linked to both the language barrier (and cultural differences) and the quality of training available. So I wonder then, how can those issues be mitigated? As a client, I want to see work of decent quality, I want it to be delivered on time, and I want to be sure that it actually does what I want it to do. As a development team leader, I understand that on many projects, my client might not know exactly what they want up front, they might not understand exactly what is
possible, and depending on the industry, their requirements and priorities may actually change mid way though the project. So how does that work with an off-shore model? I think that at a basic level, some projects are more appropriate for off-shoring than others. But beyond that, I'm thinking about how the obstacles to communication and quality can be minimised.
The importance of physio's
After a relaxing lunch, an opportunity to chat a bit more with Jotham and his wife Fiona about their experiences living in Cambodia and some exploration of the Russian markets we went to visit S, who is working as a physio at a hospital here. This opened my eyes a bit to the importance of having a physio available to the working people - he told us a story, representative of many, of one man who's job was to carry sacks of dirt all day. Unsurprisingly, this guy developed a bad back, and couldn't work. In a country without an established social security system, no work = no food for the family. This man and his family, like many live day to day and had no means to pay for medical care. He'd even taken a loan (from one of the many loan sharks) to pay for a 'witch doctor' to perform a healing ceremony. The man's back was no better and now he not only had no income, but also an increasing debt to pay. S worked on the man over a period of time, and was able to restore his back so that he could work again, and also organise a wheel barrow that he could use rather than carrying a sack on his shoulders.
After a long day, the team decided to venture out in the rain one more time, to the Shan Dong Chinese restaurant next door to the hotel. We had a little bit of trouble finding dishes everyone would like (the menu was predominantly pig intestines, frogs, ducks tongues etc) but the things we did order were great, and the owner and all the staff were extremely helpful. Vicki was chatting to the owner as we left and asked him "So you are Mr Shan Dong" the answer was our quote for the day "No, I'm Kevin"