By a DOS Information Management Specialist
“The Secretary is coming in five days…”
These were the words from our Deputy Chief of Mission (DCM) during our weekly country team meeting. At the time, I was the acting Information Management Officer (IMO) in charge of a section of nine staff members, which meant that I was responsible for the I.T. requirements. Djibouti is a tiny, developing country in East Africa, which is much less connected than most of the rest of the world. The Secretary’s team had several basic requirements for digital access, which were not possible on Djibouti’s highly privatized and underdeveloped infrastructure network.
The DCM looked to me and said, “I have full faith in your abilities to make this visit a success.” With only one week to prepare, I had to think quickly and creatively.
The first requirement was for Diplomatic Security (D.S.) (the contingent in charge of the Secretary’s protection while he was in Djibouti) to be able to communicate effectively with mobile radios, which utilize a specific radio frequency provided by the local government. I drafted a formal request to be delivered to Djibouti’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) requesting radio frequencies for the D.S. contingent. After the memo’s approval, my team and I programmed all of the equipment.
The second requirement was a dedicated internet line for the Secretary’s Press Team to upload high-definition videos and images of the visit. I coordinated with the director of the local ISP, discussed technical requirements, negotiated prices, and kept the Secretary’s Press Team informed of all decisions and progress. After plan approval, my team and I established a dedicated press area with a dedicated Press Team that could use their internet line.
The final requirement was to make it possible for U.S. government-issued phones to work on Djibouti’s mobile network. Though every member of the delegation had an international plan, Djibouti was one of the only countries in East Africa that did not have an agreement with the ISP for their service to work in Djibouti. I created a wireless network using SIM cards and mobile hotspots. I programmed ten mobile hotspots with the same SSIDs and passwords and handed each one to a member of the delegation. This made it possible that when a team member connected to one device, they connected to all devices—internet, messaging, cell phones, etc. This plan created a virtual network that allowed the Secretary’s entire delegation to have access to the internet and be in constant contact with each other, Post, and D.C.
The Secretary’s visit presented several abnormal I.T. requirements that needed immediate action. However, with a little creativity and out of the box thinking, the delegation remained connected throughout the entire visit.