Technology is ahead of its time here
This is my 4th trip to El Salvador. The airport in San Salvador seems to be welcoming me back, and outside the terminal are hundreds of families picking up their loved one who is returning from a job in the U.S. Out of the 6-7 million population in El Salvador, almost 2 million are working in other countries, especially the United States. Most overseas workers send money home every month to help support their families.
There are many poor people in El Salvador, with about 400,000 families living in homes made of dirt and palm bows, sheet metal, cardboard and tarps. Habitat for Humanity focuses on building houses which are about 500 square feet. The new homeowner must purchase the land and contribute a specific number of hours on building the house. When the house id completed the family pays a mortgage relative to their earning. A typical monthly payment is $80.
This is a small group of 3 Babson staff and 6 students-1 recent grad, 1 senior, 2 juniors, 2 sophomores and one new freshman who lives about 30 miles away in Guatemala. The students are all woman and all very interesting. As all the students are here through self selection you would expect them to be interesting. They all love their technology. As soon as we get in the van to return from the job site the smart phones come out to text and face book friends and relatives and catch up on email. The Babson staff wait until we return to our hotel and they hit the laptops to answer 100’s of emails.
But it is not just the U.S. that loved their technology. It seems most Salvadorians have cell phones, which you can purchase very cheaply and load with pre-paid minutes. The cell phones also allow many to connect with the internet as the ownership of P.C.’s is low.
I learned that these Babson women were not afraid of work. They sifted the stones out of rough sand, mixed mortar, hauled concrete blocks and worked on the scaffold filling voids with concrete. It is hot and difficult work. We were all tested. We worked with 2 masons and a helper from the family, none of who spoke English. Communication was challenging, but we struggled through. Of course the 4 Spanish speakers had much richer conversations with the locals…more later.
Posted by H. David Hennessey, Professor, Marketing at Babson College