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Working During Disruptions

Working during disruptions

Ecuador is struggling with its power and water supply. Since last year, we have been experiencing multiple power cuts – first without warning, then as temporary disruptions, and ultimately as scheduled power cuts of up to 8 hours in length.

While I could climb on my soapbox again and talk about the need for infrastructure management and maintenance, I will report today on how I have been working during these disruptions.

The first aspect is the uncertainty. Power cuts are at most announced two days ahead, which requires a constant change in planning. In April, the president declared two days as “Power outage holidays”, forcing schools and businesses to close. I ended up going to work, because I had already gotten behind so much with Everything due to the power cuts.

Random power cuts are the worst. As I work on a desktop computer, it has happened several times that I am typing in a paper or proposal, and then the power goes off and I have lost the last 20 minutes of my work, I have to redo the work, and I lost my train of thought.

At university, we work with diesel generators to keep us up and running during power cuts. These generators are designed as emergency devices, so running them for 8 hours on end is not optimal, to say the least. The internet tends to take about 20 minutes to get established again – so a power cut during a videocall is a major disruption. Sometimes I have been able to join using my phone signal and mobile data, but at times, the phone signal and mobile data have also been down during the power outages.

At home, I don’t have any backup power. I have a new house that does not use gas anymore, so when the power is off, nothing works and we can only eat sandwiches (or we should light the carbon and use the grill outside).

Then, there is also the general frustration of living in a country that is grappling with a major security crisis, an energy crisis, high unemployment, major vulnerability under climate change, and increasing political volatility. I am not sure what the future will bring, but I hope the country will be peaceful and functional again soon.

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