Description of Peace Corps Service

William James Holcomb

Information and Communication Technology

Islamic Republic of Mauritania

15 September 2003 - 22 December 2005


After successfully completing the Peace Corps application process, William Holcomb received an invitation to serve as an Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Development Agent in the Islamic Republic of Mauritania, West Africa. Following an eleven-week pre-service training program, Mr. Holcomb was assigned to the Cisco Academy at the University of Nouakchott, in the capital of Mauritania. Mr. Holcomb also served in a consulting capacity to several public and private organizations, helping both with training in the maintenance of existing systems and developing appropriate solutions for unmet needs. Primary among these organizations were the Peace Corps' Girls Mentoring Centers for which Mr. Holcomb developed an extensive automated multi-language software configuration.

Pre-Service Training

William Holcomb began his Peace Corps training on 27 June 2003 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and four days later proceeded to the Islamic Republic of Mauritania to complete a ten-week training program in the rural regional capital of Kaédi. During this time Mr. Holcomb lived with a Mauritanian family in order to facilitate his integration into Mauritanian culture and to offer him opportunity to practice the languages he was learning. The structured classroom portion of the training program was broken down as follows:

At the end of this training, a certified language trainer tested Mr. Holcomb as intermediate high in French. He was retested at the end of his service as intermediate high in French.


Upon completion of his training on September 15, 2003, Mr. Holcomb was sworn in as a Peace Corps Volunteer and assigned to Nouakchott, the capital of Mauritania. Mr. Holcomb's service developed the technology related capacities of Mauritanian institutions in a variety of ways:

Cisco Certified Academy Instructor

Mr. Holcomb's primary assignment was to the Cisco Academy at the University of Nouakchott. This Academy was established as a part of the United Nations Least Developed Countries Initiative and aimed at strengthening the information technology service industry in Mauritania by offering Cisco Certified Network Administrator (CCNA) preparation courses.

Mr. Holcomb's first six months were spent as an assistant instructor concerned with overseeing laboratory learning exercises and answering student questions. These classes required ten hours of classroom time a week. Upon completion of his Academy Instructor training, Mr. Holcomb began teaching classes as the primary instructor with a Mauritanian assistant. Mr. Holcomb continued in this role, teaching ten hours a week for three school semesters of four months apiece. During his tenure, Mr. Holcomb was instrumental in graduating approximately 75 students from different semesters.

Technology Development Agent

Mr. Holcomb's role as an adviser in technological matters began initially from his simple habit of keeping regular office hours in his laboratory at the University. During the course of his time there he was in the lab from noon until he taught in the evening. As word of his free technical advice began to spread he received one or two visitors a day with various questions. The student's enrolled in the University's Java programming, C++ programming and web design classes were primary among these, but he also saw a broken laptop or misconfigured desktop at least once every two weeks.

The projects that Mr. Holcomb was consulting on became more complex as time went on. One of the first off-site projects was a proposal for a router and GSM channel bank combination to work with's VoIP business plan. He also did training with the information technology support staff of several organizations to help them deal with specific issues ranging from BSA's DHCP server configuration to ISET's migration to a Linux domain controller to PACTEC's construction of a NAT and proxy server.

Mr. Holcomb handled requests for technology advice not only from Mauritanians, but also from Peace Corps. This included innumerable small questions on issues such as accessing the website ( and listserv he created for the volunteers. Also, however it included some larger projects such as a two week stay in 'Ayoûn to oversee the installation of an EDDI funded computer lab, diagnosing and repairing the solar system for a lab in Maal, and the rewiring and reconfiguration of a lab run by Nissa Bank.

Website Developer

Mr. Holcomb dealt with University students with web design questions on a regular basis as well as helping the web administrator at the American Embassy with her initial site development. He was also responsible for rewriting the Cisco Academy's website ( and the development of a new dual language site for the NGO ECO-Development (

Girls Mentoring Centers

Mr. Holcomb spent a significant amount of time troubleshooting issues for the twelve Girls Mentoring Centers in cities across the country. Each of these centers has at least one computer and Mr. Holcomb visited every center at least once during his service. Finding appropriate software in an environment where the only non-local language some people know is Arabic and for others it is French is challenging. Mr. Holcomb collected software packages for word processing, reference and education during his service and ended by producing a seven CD multilingual automated install.

English Education

For the last six months of his service, Mr. Holcomb taught English at IMA, a Mauritanian run business school. He taught both beginning and advanced classes for between six and ten hours a week. Mr. Holcomb received a letter of commendation from IMA for the reviews given by his students.

Non-Competitive Eligibility for Federal Employment

Pursuant to section 5(f) of the Peace Corps Act U.S.C. 2540 (f) of April 10, 1963, as amended, any former volunteer employed by the United States Government following his or her Peace Corps Volunteer service is credited for the purpose of retirement, seniority, reduction of force, leave, and other privileges based on length of government service.

This is to certify in accordance with Executive order 11103 of April 10, 1963, that William Holcomb served satisfactorily as a Peace Corps Volunteer. His service in Mauritania was completed on 15 December, 2005. The benefits under the executive order extend for a period of one year after termination of volunteer service, except that the employing agency may extend the period up to three years for a former volunteer who enters military service, pursues studies at a recognized institution of higher learning, or engages in other activities which, in view of the appointing authority, warrant extension of this period.