Friday, July 24, 2009

Friday, July 24.

I am a very bad blogger. What I wanted to be a short post, is now one of the longest (and most boring). I know few of you will read it; even my parents won’t read it as they are going on holiday today (Enjoy!). Anyhow, here we go:

For the people that actually read the whole July 21 post “Regarding research, and other things”, you read the paragraph called “Peter and Ophrah Winfrey” in which I bashed those magazines that are unfortunately read by a large part of Western society. Anyhow, you won’t belief it, but I am actually going to say something positive about one of them. In 11 March 2008-issue of Best, there is an article called “Marriage madness?”. It concerns the wedding of the UK football player Wayne Rooney and the UK presenter Coleen McLoughlin who with “… a rumoured 2.5 million pounds on the table the couple will be out to impress. After all, Coleen’s 21st bash last year cost ½ million pound.” The article notes: a 200,000 pound ring, a 100,000 pound gown, and that Coleen is looking for “the biggest one-of-a-kind wedding cake”. Now, fantastically, on the same page, Best compares this to the wedding of Julie and Gary Ratcliffe who married for less than a 1,000 pounds, had everything they wanted and had a great time. Absolutely brilliant! To make an understatement, I am angry when I read how people misspend money while I know that just several meters from where I am currently writing this blog people literally die from cold, hunger, and diseases that can be prevented with extremely cheap medicines. I do not say that people shouldn’t spend money on a wedding, but please with some moderation. Wayne Rooney and Coleen McLoughlin please see something of this world, instead of only beaches and fancy hotels.

That's quite a bit of preaching on an early Friday morning. Don't I have anything else to blog about than a wedding? Well, yes, but it is not very spectacular as Simon and I have been working in either the IRC office or at home the last two days. So what did we do?

Yesterday and the day before.
We already got the software for Voix des Kivus working several days ago. However, several additional things we wanted to check. After some work we now know how to send credit from one phone to another; i.e. this is crucial as we have to update the credit of our phones in the villages. Also, with the help of the FrontlineSMS community, we are now able to make the computer 'do things' if it receives textmessages. For example, I programmed a (simple) code so that when somebody sends the text message OPENSTATA to my phone, Stata is opened on my computer. It is a bit geeky, but it can also be very useful. For example, we can have a dataset on our computer with information about the different villages. Then, for example, if somebody that lives in the village 1 sends the textmessage VILLAGE1, I can make the computer open the dataset, look for the information on Village 1, and have that information send – all automatically – back to that villager.

We did something else over the last two days. TUUNGANE - in all four provinces - is currently collecting GPS data on exactly where the LLUs, CDVs and CDCs are (more on this below). Of course, in the end, these locations should be projected on a nice fancy map of the DR Congo. Unfortunately, this is more complicated then we expected: 1. There are different so-called “datums”; that is, geographical coordinate systems. In brief, the world is not a nice round ball. It is therefore approximated by an ellipsoid. However, the datum is important as it determines the ellipsoid’s position with regards to the earth. There are literally hundreds of different datums. To make things even easier, this is not all. 2. There are different types of projections. While the world is kind of like a ball, a map is two-dimensional. Unfortunately, there are many different ways to go from the first to the latter. Depending on the projection, the locations that TUUNGANE obtained are either in the DR Congo, or - for example, in Latin America. :).

Yes, we have specialized software for this – ArcGIS – but that doesn’t make life much easier: 1. The program is not very user-friendly; I say this although I am already working with it for several months. 2. We obtained several maps of the DRC from the UN. Of course, these maps have different datums and projections than the locations TUUNGANE gives us.

Because we are not going to Maniema, the M&E officer in Kindu will now be responsible for conducting the pilot survey. That is, he has to train 2 people and take them into the field for several days. Yesterday and the day before, we wrote an extensive guide on how to train these surveyors, and exactly what the questions went. This document will also be useful for the final survey next year.

Over the last few weeks we noticed several inconsistencies in the 2007 baseline survey dataset, some answers were on the hardcopies but not in the dataset, etc. Consequently, last Monday we hired Junior to re-enter specific information from the (close to) 4,000 surveys into a data set. While we already made the template for the household surveys, we still had to make a template for the chief surveys.

We also did many small things: 1. We got our per diems from the IRC (we are in need for cash). 2. We asked Macartan to send us money via Western Union (for the thieves reading this. Money will be gone quickly as we have to pay our Field Coordinator, hire a car for next week, etc. Sorry!). 3. We double-checked with Junior. 4. We solved some excel-questions that the TUUNGANE boss in Haut Katanga still had for us. 5. We got in contact with a guy to become the collegue of Junior (it is more work then expected).

A final big thing we did was the writing of a template for the Sud Kivu territoire directors with questions for them to fill out regarding the LLUs. You are probably bored already. Warning: it will get even worse from now onwards.

LLU data.
LLUs are so-called “Lowest Level Units”. Let me explain. TUUNGANE works with CDVs (see one of my previous posts). These CDVs are not equal to actual villages; they are IRC-constructed entities of around 1,200 inhabitants. For example, if there are 4 villages of around 300 people 'close' to each other, they are together a CDV. But, for example, if the village is big and has say 6,000 inhabitants, the CDV only takes place in a part of the village; for example a quartier. All to make sure the CDVs has a size of around 1,200 people. This leads to weird things: some villages are split up, some villages have to work together in a CDV but are tens of kilometers apart from each other, etc. LLUs then are the entities that a CDV consists of (villages, sousvillages, quartiers, etc.). These CDVs get a project of around $3,000. Then these CDV are themselves again grouped together into CDCs; these guys get projects of around $60,000.

Anyhow, Simon and I have to create a clean database with information on these LLUs. This is not easy.

Some background information (in brief!): In 2007 there was a document with >5,000 LLUs from which the 600+ LLUs were chosen to be sampled for the baseline survey. Then in 2008 the IRC obtained information on the amount of people living in each of these LLUs and then grouped these LLUs together into CDVs and then these CDVs into CDCs. This newly created document was then used to for a lottery determining whether the CDC was going to get TUUNGANE. After that, IRC people found out that the population sizes of the LLUs were often very different than what they thought. Consequently, from 2008 to 2009 many CDVs were regrouped because CDVs should have around 1,200 people in there. So, some LLUs were kicked out of certain CDV and entered others, some LLUs didn’t exist and were deleted from the files, etc.

Therefore at the moment, Simon and I have to work with several files that are all different, but all have some interesting information:
1. A file from 2007 with information which LLUs were chosen for the 2007 baseline sample;
2. A file from 2008 saying in which CDV and CDC the different LLUs are in 2008;
3. A file - at the CDC level - with information on the lottery (what lottery bin, the date of the lottery, etc.);
4. A current 2009 file that tells us which CDCs have which CDVs.

Our job is to combine these files in clean database with information at the LLUs-level. If this sounds complicated, please read this. 1. Documents 1 and 2 have some strange reason not the same LLUs in there!? Merging the two gives a very bad match. 2. Document 2 has been documented at the provincial level. Many provinces do not have this document anymore, or are not sure how they grouped the LLUs into CDVs and CDCs. 3. Which CDVs changed composition? In which CDVs are the LLUs now? Document 4 is at the CDV level, and doesn't say anything about the LLUs.

After the aforementioned template is filled out, we have finished the province of Sud Kivu. That is, we have a do-file that is many pages long, we spend weeks on it, bothered the territoire directors of Sud Kivu many times., and... Sud Kivus is the easiest province!

Over the last few weeks Simon and I worked each weekday and each weekendday. Knowing that we have less than two weeks left in the DR Congo, this weekend we take a 1.5 day break. Macartan, I hope you don’t read this. ;). On Saturday morning we take a speedboat to the other side of the Lake Kivu, stay over in Goma, and be back on Sunday. I should have some nice pictures on Monday.

Two great links.
Finally, two great links. The first is just for fun, and especially people from New York will understand most of its humor.
I have to say that this website is also good for my knowlegdge about the geography and history of the United States. For example:

Girl #1: “I hate my life! I need to go out there! Like drive to Hawaii!”
Girl #2: “You can't drive to Hawaii, you don't even have a license!”

20-something girl: There's this guy in my class who's like an Indian. But, I keep reading these things about how we were so horrible to the Indians and how there are none left, so where did he come from? Like, if there are none left, where did he come from?

Finally, the second link is a towards a great blog that also has some posts on the Congo (I stole the link from Chris Blattman’s blog):


  1. Yes, the post is way too long. :-)
    Regarding rhe database problems - are those in excel? Any chance that "vlookup" can help? It helped me in similar situations.
    About the projections and maps - I think googlemaps have some solutions about your problems - I do not know if you were thinking about using it.
    And finally I sooo agree with what you said on Rooneys wedding.

  2. Hi Neutrino,

    Thanks. No, unfortunately, vlookup and gmaps can't help us here. But with a bit of struggling, Simon and I should be ok. :)