Technology & Communications

Information Technology Needs

Information Technology (IT) needs for an international activity should be considered in terms of the scale of operations, size of the staff and project timeline. Buying servers, workstations and printers in-country is recommended. This insures that devices are configured to meet local power standards and can make problem resolution and repairs less expensive and time consuming.  Portable devices such as laptops, smartphones and software can be purchased in the U.S. or in-country, depending on need and pricing.

If access to electricity at the foreign site is not consistent, buy a power strip in-country. Additional precautions may be needed to signal the unexpected loss of power (e.g., an alarm on a piece of equipment). Back-up equipment (e.g., generator) may also be necessary.

UW travelers who are taking a laptop should ensure that all patches and applications are up-to-date before departing. In addition, insurance for the laptop should be purchased before leaving the U.S. Travelers should carry a personal phone that has international roaming and buy a second phone in-country for business purposes. Pre-paid phone cards are widely available in foreign locations.

In-Country Technical Support

Local technical support is recommended if project personnel will be heavy users of computer and communications equipment.  Local IT support professionals:

  • Are familiar with thelocal technology environment

  • Understand the in-country IT infrastructure

  • Have experience with local IT vendors

  • Can provide timely and more cost effective technical problem resolution

Take extra precautions to safeguard your data

  • Create a full backup of your data before you go.
  • Avoid carrying any sensitive data unless absolutely necessary. Consult with your IT personnel about tools to scan your system and find sensitive data so that it can be removed in advance of your trip. Many people are surprised to find that Social Security or credit card numbers have been saved somewhere on their system.
  • Encrypt any sensitive data if it is essential that you take it with you.

Note: Encryption technology is subject to U.S. export controls. Certain data content that you maintain on your laptop may also be subject to U.S. export control laws. For example, users intending to travel to Cuba, Libya, North Korea, Syria, Sudan, Iran or Iraq must contact the Office of Research Compliance for assistance in determining whether an export license is required, and how to apply for one. Certain countries may inspect laptops and data upon entry, so you should be careful about proprietary, patentable, or sensitive information that may be stored on your device. If you have encrypted files, customs officials in some countries (including the U.S.) may require you to decrypt the files for inspection. If possible, you may wish to take an alternate, “clean” computer when traveling to avoid exposing sensitive data to inspection.


Plan for how data will be transmitted and how communication between project sites will be managed (e.g., phone calls, Skype, video conferencing, VOIP phones). The communication method and roaming charges may add additional costs that should be reflected in the budget. See the UW IT site on international conferencing options.


UWIT, website, email, 206-221-5000
IT Support Scope of Work for Foreign Locations Checklist
Recommendations for IT & Communications in a Foreign Location


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