Tribute to Frank!
Contributor: Andrew, Infoxchange Australia
Source: Jodi Mohr, Emma Pullen, Kylie Davies and others.
Frank Copeland was the dedicated and passionate network administrator, employed by Infoxchange Australia, in a pilot project that bridged the Digital Divide at Atherton Gardens Housing Estate in Fitzroy. Frank died in a motorcycle accident in July 2006. In this tribute, colleagues, friends and residents remember the significant contribution Frank made to their lives and the lives of many others.
Throughout his employment on the project formerly known as the ‘Reach for the Clouds’, and now referred to as eACE (Electronic Atherton Community Enterprise), Frank put action into the company’s (not for profit) core mission of ‘technology for social justice’. Frank tirelessly used his expertise in Information Communication Technologies to design and manage (from scratch) an estate based intranet, which provides residents with in-house access to a ‘cable’ connection, in which to plug their recycled computer.
Frank was diligent at managing this network, and was on call 24 hours 7 days a week to ensure that all systems were ‘go’! By doing all this (and more) Frank ensured that residents could access their free email, and estate based website, which in 2003 expanded to include affordable and flexible access to the World Wide Web.
Frank not only succeeded in changing this world by empowering those who lacked resources to access digital technologies to improve their lives, he did this with a total whole hearted commitment, and a passion I have never seen before.
Frank’s commitment to build and maintain a digital network and estate based web site for the Atherton Gardens Housing Estate will never be forgotten, and will most surely live on, fulfilling the need to ensure that income or lack of, does not restrict people’s access to a technology that is promoting access to information and ‘affordable’ communication for the masses, and some may argue, by doing so increasing their access and ability to participate as active citizens in democratic society.
Infoxchange set up an on-site help desk and computer training facility at Atherton Gardens. Frank was the key face on the estate associated with this project, reinforced by his position of being the core staff member that had contributed his expertise throughout the whole life of the project. He provided all the knowledge (and more importantly commitment) that was needed to ensure that this digital divide project didn’t stall due to lack of funds or commitment from staff and the broader community.
Frank was in there, tapping away at his keyboard, on the phone to residents, and in the front line of service delivery, all the while projecting a calm and calculated smile, with a ‘lets resolve the problem with whatever resources we have’ attitude. And he did this under pressure, trying to establish and resolve issues which many of us that didn’t even know how to communicate in the first language of English, let alone tyring to get the message in through in a second language! But this didn’t stop Frank, and he never expressed the frustration he most surely felt having to deal with people who only knew the basic bare minimum of how to use these machines and the technology! He always helped resolve a technical (and most of the time user related) fault with a smile (even if it was at times a gruff one) on his face!
Reflections on Frank
Jodi Mohr, former Community Development worker at eACE:
I was fortunate to work with Frank, and to have the experience of spending time and learning from someone who had a lot of experience and wisdom in how to manage ‘life’. Frank always took a problem for what it was, and focused on the issue at hand, and the options of resolution. The following anecdotes try to capture the way Frank maintained a positive attitude and passion when working in the challenging environment in which information ‘technology–phobics’ like myself, need assistance when the technology (that’s right Frank – it wasn’t me – I didn’t do anything ?) does strange and unpredictable things!
Frank was used to dismantling machines to establish potential internal faults, but he didn’t expect to see creepy crawleys emerge, and who would? I’ll never forget the time I saw Frank bolting out of the Atherton Gardens computer training room (where the help-desk is based) and dropping the case and machine on the grass lawn out the front – Frank then proceeded to drop all the parts on the ground to shake off the apparent infestation of cockroaches – now we know that these little creatures posses a hardy constitution, but who would have thought that a computer – box and all - would contain a family – or a more appropriate definition of ‘community’ – of cockroaches. Apparently the warmth of the machine when it is turned on creates a nice warm home – beware! But these little creatures not only lived inside the machines, they also lived inside the eACE office!
Not being too fond of cockroaches, Frank was my knight in shining armour who would hear my squeals in the office as they popped up their heads and proceeded to crawl along my desk (where the beloved server is housed- another nice warm place to set up home) and come running in with his whacking stick! I would point – and whack – that was the end of another cockroach. Frank actually got a kick out of this – ‘saving a damsel in distress’
Frank also had a special way of bringing people together, to socialise, share smiles (and sometimes tears) and prepare for a well earned weekend. He was conscious of ensuring that his work mates were out of the office at a reasonable hour on a Friday night and was the convenor of the ‘Boozers’ club.
He would start the ball rolling around midday on Friday, sending out an email to the Boozing buddies email list that he oversaw, with short sharp lines such as ‘I am tasting it already. Where shall we meet tonight?’ and, in answer to obvious questions, ‘RTFM’. This will not be forgotten or lost, and we are continuing Frank’s legacy of ensuring that our lives are balanced with work and play – and that we have a space to forge friendships outside the work environment – which is where we were all fortunate to get to know the other side of Frank, his passion for literature, and Dilbert cartoons - his love of riding his bike through the country – and his love of ‘life’ and living it to the fullest!.
Peter - resident, Atherton Gardens
He wasn’t really political. But he was more political than all of us put together in his own way. You know, he really believed that through knowledge you could beat any adversary. He had this idea that through knowledge we can better ourselves.
Emma Pullen, former coordinator, Reach for the Clouds (now eACE):
"Frank will know" or "I’ll ask Frank" I can’t believe we didn’t have badges or a t-shirt for the amount of times you’d hear someone saying that everyday. And he did know everything…whether it was what country invaded who in the 15th Century, or what was troubling the server at 2.14pm yesterday afternoon, or the particular character in the book you are trying to remember. And he’d always be definite in his answer, with more or less information depending on whether he was interested or thought you needed to know.
Frank would sometimes explain a joke or a theory or how to solve a problem in great detail with flourishes and background history or sometimes he would not explain at all and would opt for the short answer "yes" or "no". Then occasionally he’d relent and give in and tell you the long answer anyway, possibly with a solution thrown in. Because he couldn’t help himself but be generous, he always gave and always shared his knowledge. Because that was what he wanted to do and gave him the most enjoyment.
He was very patient very kind and very funny. And so much of his humour came from the way he enjoyed all the people around him. He really did like people much more than computers. He lived life very well but he is missed so much.
Kylie Davies, Computerbank Victoria:
Prior to his work with Infoxchange, Frank volunteered with Computerbank Victoria, from late 1999 to mid 2001. Computerbank Victoria recycles donated computers for distribution to disadvantaged individuals and community groups using an inhouse Linux Debian Distribution.
Frank always came along to our working bee days and developed the first Computerbank Linux distribution. He had a big hand in building our first server, 'omnidimensional.'
Frank was a patient guy with a big mop of ginger hair and a great smile. A guy you'll never forget. He was revered by geeks across the world who would consult with him for technical advice. His commitment and passion to digital divide issues was not only evident through his volunteer efforts with Computerbank, Frank went on to work for InfoXchange and made a great contribution to the Atherton Gardens project. Frank will be missed by many folks.
An inspiration to many
Frank was also a compassionate and kind hearted person, who openly offered words of wisdom to colleagues and residents, basically anyone in need. He had an up front matter of fact approach to his work, along with a sly and always friendly wry smile, and was ‘Mr Technological Fix It’ for both residents and Green PC/Infoxchange clients (but don’t ask him about Windows or MS products - Frank much preferred the Linux based systems). He managed the internet/intranet and had high expectations in regards to ensuring affordability and security of the internet service provision on the estate, which he most definitely achieved.
Frank was a highly respected worker and more importantly friend to many on the estate, and has managed to change the lives of all through his work. Frank leaves a big gap in our hearts and in our work, that will be impossible to fill – his ability to engage with his work and the people he worked with and for was truly incredible!
Frank’s life has touched so many people in a special way and his sad and untimely passing leaves behind a legacy of reminding us all of the importance of ensuring that we always centre our work and lives on advocating for principles of social justice and community spirit, in whatever way we can.
Frank will never be forgotten and I, as many, will proudly continue his legacy of trying to make this world a better place ‘for all’! Frank will be sadly missed. My heart goes out to his family and friends, with my deepest sympathies.
Frank is an inspiration to many, and will forever remain that way.