From MissionTechWiki


Description of Email

Email or e-mail is electronic mail. It allows messages to be sent and received electronically. If you want to know more about it then check out the Wikipedia article on wikipedia:Email

How is Email used in Cross-Cultural work?

I believe Email has had the greatest impact on cross-cultural worker communications in recent history. It has greatly increased the speed and reduced the cost of communications between workers, their sending organisations and their supporters.

For example, rather than writing a letter to a supporter, perhaps once every quarter, Email allows missionaries to be in almost constant communication with supporters.

Issues with email

Time consumption

While writing letters used to take time, so does Email. In fact because of the almost immediate gratification of receiving a response, it can become addictive and take more time than is reasonable. Workers need to remember their primary purpose and manage their time appropriately.

Email in the middle of nowhere

Cross-cultural workers often live and work where there is a lack of telecommunication infrastructure. These workers often use HF radio or Satellite for their phone and email needs.

Lack of security/privacy

In general Email has no security at all. It is easy to send fraudulent emails, and it is possible to intercept them. Workers in sensitive contexts need to take care minimise this risk.

This section will be deliberately somewhat vague and general since we don't want to compromise people working in sensitive locations. These issues are not necessarily specific to cross-cultural workers but can apply to other people working in these situations.

A proper risk analysis needs to be conducted for each context. Securely encrypting Email isn't much good if it is left unencrypted on a laptop that is then stolen, or if a printout of the Email is left lying around. Other techniques used to gain information may also be used.

It is important to not get carried away with IT security when other security elements, such as physical security are not as rigid. Security needs to be considered as a whole. This is nothing new, but since Email is relatively new and not well understood people can be more worried about it. It is true that a laptop containing a lot of information can be more easily stolen than a filing cabinet.


Encryption is the most common way of protecting Email, although sometimes just using a non-local email provider can reduce the risk of interception greatly. There have been stories of some ISPs printing emails and display in the shop window for collection.

PGP used to be popular as a means of encryption. PGP reuqires the use of public/private key pairs, and remains encrypted on the receivers machine until decrypted, and is also encrypted on any mail servers during transit, so it is very secure, at least until decrypted.

Today the use of SSL encrypted sessions or web hosted email is more common, although this only encrypts the email communication from the server to the mail client (or web browser). Once there is it able to be intercepted. Almost always, the email will be store unencrypted on the mail server, and on any other delivery paths (or at least it is difficult to guarantee that they are encrypted). Unless an SSL certificate is installed on the email client, the SLL encryption can also be tricked by man-in-the-middle attacks.

Different implementations and solutions using Email

Running your own Email server

CommuniGate is an email server that can be used to provide email for a local mission office.

MailScanner is a set of email tools with good anti-virus and spam filtering for any Linux-based mail server like Sendmail.

Email Providers in hard to get to places

JAARS, MAF USA, CRMF are just some of the email providers that work in hard to get to places, often using HF Radio.

Accessing Email via Satellite Communications also presents challenges. UUPlus have software that can efficiently send email across Satellite & HF Radio links.

Secure email providers

PLEASE do not list private providers here.

There are a lot of secure email providers out there supporting all sorts of workers who want secure email, where ever they are on the planet. (Listing of a provider is not to be taken as a recommendation) Eg

One commercial option is Securenym (Securenym). They provide both POP and webmail using SSL to secure both incoming and outgoing email. The service is $60 a year or $90 a year if you purchase two accounts. Support is by email which is very quick and friendly.

Some other providers:

Google Mail

Some free email providers, eg Google Mail do provide SSL encrypted email if you use https: in the URL, or secure POP. However there are other issues to consider here. Do you trust the organisation that manages the mail server, since the email is accessible on the server. Whereas new accounts used to require an invitation from an existing user (or an SMS-capable cell phone,) anyone can now create an account by clicking the "Sign Up" link on the home page.

Update on Google Mail: They are now offering Gmail for Domains where you register your organization specifying how many mailboxes you will need. Once approved, you are given a special administrator account which permits you to set up and administer users, aliases, and distribution lists. When you've done that, point your domain's MX records to Google's mailservers and also create a special SPF TXT record, and from that point on your users will receive their mail (with addresses like via Google Mail. Also includes Calendar and GoogleTalk. We have switched our staff to it and after about a month are pretty pleased. Main advantages: much less SPAM, accessible from outside your LAN, access with https (automatically with the free "CustomizeGoogle" Firefox extension). Main disadvantages: Google Lists not yet integrated, no IMAP (only http/pop3), mail not stored encrypted, how much do you trust Google?

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from the MissionTech Wiki created by the International Conference on Computers and Missions

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