Information Technology in Missions: Business Applications

You probably know that computers run a great deal of our lives today. From birth at the hospital all the way to funeral arrangements. Ok maybe that’s a bit on the morbid side, but very true. Business applications (or programs) are needed to make our lives function these days. However you should know that  computers themselves are only machines that can carry out specific instructions. Allen B. Downey in Think Python gives this definition:

program is a sequence of instructions that specifies how to perform a computation. The computation might be something mathematical, such as solving a system of equations or finding the roots of a polynomial, but it can also be a symbolic computation, such as searching and replacing text in a document or (strangely enough) compiling a program.

Ok, so what does that mean?

Next time you go to the check out at your favorite restaurant. Try to reason how many computer instructions your order might have to take. Here are some possible routes.

  1. The person behind the counter takes your order, and types it up on a cash register.
  2. Calculate your total.
  3. You pay with cash. Determines it does not need to process the payment any further. So it marks the bill paid. (This is the simple one)
  4. Calculates correct change.
  5. The software prints off a receipt.
  6. Your order is automatically tracked on the back screen of the restaurant.
  7. They finish your order. Mark it complete.
  8. They call your name based on what you told them when you ordered.

Ok so let’s just for fun say you did something different at the same restaurant. You paid with a debit card; cause no one keeps cash these days ;).

 

  1. The person behind the counter takes your order, and types it up on a cash register.
  2. Calculate your total.
  3. You pay with with plastic.
  4. Contact your bank.
  5. Communicate with card company (i.e. Visa, Mastercard)
  6. Is card expired?
  7. Verify that your card is not stolen.
  8. Record location. (Watch the news for when they chase people down or have your credit card stolen [not recommended]. They can always follow the transaction. Or even the attempts.)
  9. Card is processed as not stolen.
  10. Does customer have the amount being asked for?
  11. Yes. Send back true. (or the other more embarrassing one send back false)
  12. Request transfer money from your account to restaurant account. (A whole other list of actions)
  13. The software prints off a receipt.
  14. Your order is automatically tracked on the back screen of the restaurant.
  15. They finish your order. Mark it complete.
  16. They call your name based on what you told them when you ordered.

Believe it or not I actually left out some steps. Both methods are built into the system. This doesn’t include other methods of payment. Which depending on the where you are and what you are doing as to how the method works. Online stores may add PayPal, WePay, Visa, Mastercard, or possibly even some sort of trade agreement. The list just goes on and on for the needs of business applications.

So would it shock you to know that missionaries also need computers that know the instructions for business needs to accomplish the task of Bible translation?

In Ukarumpa, Papua New Guinea, where we will be located once we go, there are many facilities with software needs. Just to name a few:

  1. An airport
  2. Training facilities
  3. A local school
  4. Need to transfer money from multiple home countries (read different conversions from different monetary systems)
  5. Communication systems with various different missionaries.
  6. A grocery store
  7. A hardware shop
  8. An auto repair shop
  9. Radio communications
  10. Human resources

All of these areas are essential to the work of missionaries who are both translating God’s word into the heart languages of many different people groups and those who serve in support roles. All of them have different business needs to keep track of data. Now some of this software can come off the shelf. Some of it cannot. My experience has shown that even with off the shelf software that customization maybe needed.

So who does this type of work? Software developers do. Of course there are a lot of interchangeable titles such as programmer, engineer, etc. These guys work very diligently keeping up with an ever changing world of technology and business needs in order to write the best business applications.

This is the area that I have the privilege of serving in! I am excited to do my part to speed Bible translation!

How can you pray for business applications?

  1. Pray that God would give wisdom to developers. Many decisions that developers make create both features and limits to what software can do.
  2. Pray that God would provide more developers to take up this role to speed Bible translation.
  3. Developers are consistently updating, reading, and acquiring new knowledge. Pray that developers always have a teachable spirit.

Related Articles:

  1. The person behind the counter takes your order, and types it up on a cash register.