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I’m constantly amazed by the ability to turn automation into something manual here. Usually I welcome technology as a harbinger  of efficiency, a time-saver in many cases, something that might reduce friction a bit in a business transaction and make one’s life a little easier.

In Ecuador, it doesn’t always work out that way. I’ve probably discussed more than once how even the Internet has been turned into something that adds another layer of bureaucracy and friction to getting things done here. Or getting access to the Internet for banking or other services may be even more difficult than using the service itself, requiring reams of paper and signatures before being handed maybe a USB token or series of passwords, in an office somewhere out of the way, that you have to visit in person.

This must contribute to the high costs of so many things here in Ecuador. Because in so many cases, instead of just having a person do what a person could do alone, they add a machine to do it, then add a person to run that machine.

In this photo, we’re looking at a ticket line at Movistar, one of Ecuador’s main cell phone service companies.

They’ve installed an automated kiosk, with a touch screen for several options depending on the type of service you need.

However, instead of letting the public actually use the touch screen, they’ve hired someone to touch the touch screen for you, and then also write down the nature of your inquiry by hand into a notebook! At which point you are then delivered a slip of paper with your number on it, which will eventually show up on one of the flat-screen panels throughout the office when your turn comes up.

Perhaps they had too many problems initially with people not being able to use the automated kiosk-this wouldn’t surprise me as human interaction is the norm, not the exception in Ecuador, and most people just aren’t used to having a machine handle their requests. But hey, what can I do? It is what it is.

Welcome to Destination Ecuador!

Welcome to Destination Ecuador! My family and I have been living in Ecuador for the last four and a half years. We’ve dealt with the worst kinds of red-tape, searched out or ended up making hard-to-find ingredients ourselves, imported equipment for making chocolate confections, learned the import-export business...Continue >>

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