Developing My Computer Skills In A Developing Country

My First Four Years In Papua New Guinea. What A Change It Was From Anything I Had Experienced Before.

It took me all of six months to get my little department running anywhere near as smoothly as I wanted it to run. Several of the problems that had to be faced and overcome were:

  • The accounts numbering format was completely different to the one I had known in England, so the standard chart of accounts I had developed in London had to be modified a great deal. The format offered much more flexibility than the old one, but looking ahead and visualizing how best to utilize this flexibility was certainly a challenge.

  • The formatting system, was again completely different to the one I had known before, not to mention much more difficult. More akin to actual programming than anything else. Standard accounts layouts were also different, so I really had to start from square one when it came to producing standard formats.

  • I had manuals to write and training courses to deliver, both to the small business section, who would give us individual transactions to input, and the audit section, who would normally furnish us with completed trial balances.

  • Then there were the tasks I had to do because I was in a developing country with limited access to knowledgeable support. For example, during the first six months we moved office and it was left to me to order from Australia, a fire-proof safe in which to keep the floppy disks full of data. Before making the purchase I had to find out its weight, then contact the architects of the building we were moving into to check if the eighth floor would support such a weight. I was told it would, but that it would be safer If the safe was placed right up against one of the upright concrete pillars that supported the whole building.

  • And so the list went on and on.


However, after about six months, my girls were almost able to run the department on their own. Both my small business department and audit department colleagues knew how I wanted their information presented to us on the standard input forms I had designed, and, more importantly, they were beginning to see the benefit that a well run computer department could bring to their productivity. After a long battle, I was beginning to win them over to my way of thinking.

it was time for me to spread my knowledge around the company’s other, but much smaller, offices in other parts of the country.


The company had offices in Lae, Madang, Goroka, Mount Hagen, Wewak, Rabaul and Arawa, and over the next three and a half years, as it turned out (yes I extended my initial two year contract to four years, and became a manager in the process), I tried to visit all of these offices at least once every six months. Some more often than others.

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On these visits out of port Moresby, Apart from training in the systems I had designed, and the occasional specialized formatting exercise my “expertise was often extended further. The computers in the other offices were all smaller than the one in the main office, but they were all manufactured by Honeywell. There was only one Honeywell engineer in the whole of P.N.G., who, of course was based in Port Moresby. On many occasions I was known to spend my time in the Highlands or Islands of P.N.G., phone in one hand and screwdriver in the other trying to follow instructions on how to fix a small mechanical problem. Talk about being out of ones “comfort zone”, but to survive in P.N.G., all expats had to be flexible to say the least.

The other computer development that started during my first four year stint in P.N.G., was the advent of the first spreadsheets. Something that I took to with enthusiasm. I immediately saw the immense potential their use could have in he accounting arena, both to help with the compilation of figures and the production of reports, especially with respect to management type accounts. However it wasn’t until later jobs, that I was able to completely master the art of spreadsheeting, and incorporate it into my overall strategy.

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