In 2010, during my first six months in Chile, I worked out of the Startup Chile office in downtown Santiago in the in the Ministry of the Economy. From day one, we had all sorts of problems with the internet. The government wasn’t used to 50 entrepreneurs burning up the bandwidth, so the internet was slow. We offered to share the cost of upgrading the line, but we were told it was impossible, because the government had to bid out all contracts. Luckily, that got fixed within the first month.
At the end of the first week, my internet stopped working. I’d been kicked off the network. I went to ask what the problem was and one of the startup chile staff members told me that the password had changed. I updated the password and didn’t think anything of it.
But next friday, I got kicked off again. I asked why the password changed and was told that it was government policy: the password had to change weekly. At 4pm each friday, some bureaucrat would send us an email saying what the new password would be. At 430, the password would change and you’d get kicked off the network.
I never learned the real story, but my guess is that some government employee must have decided it was imperative to change the password weekly. So they did it. As if the Chilean ministry of the economy needed to prevent potential Peruvian, Bolivian and Argentinian James Bonds from connecting to the government wifi!
And of course, the only way to find the new password was in your email. And since this was pre smartphones with data plans, if nobody looked quickly, the only way to find the password was to call the bureaucrat in charge. One of the Startup Chile staffers, Diego, at least made it more fun when he forced the government to make the ever changing passwords the names of styles of Chilean sandwiches. That information still comes in handy four years later.
After running through ~20 sandwiches, Diego switched it to sandwich shops. Sometime during the 5th month, he changed the password to the name of one of the better sandwich shops in Santiago. And somehow the policy changed so we didn’t need to change the password each week.
I went back to the Moneda office for the first time in about a year today and the current password hasn’t changed. It’s still that same sandwich shop. Diego really should have charged a commission! It’s a small win in the battle against the bureaucracy. And one I’ll happily take it. That’s progress.