Friday, January 22, 2010

Why is Peter in the DRC this time?

From January 7 to February 6 I am in the Congo mainly for two reasons: TUUNGANE and Voix des Kivus. Warning: boring post ahead!


While the baseline survey took place in 2007 another will take place at end of this year and yet another in the summer of next year. Not only are we preparing these surveys, we are also working on a great behavioral measure to get at the impact of TUUNGANE (more on that later). All in all, this needs lots of preparation: doing lots of coding (mainly to clean data), meeting all the stakeholders, etc.

In addition, the geo-location of over 5,000 villages throughout Eastern Congo has to be taken in upcoming months. Indeed, lots of preparation: talking with organizations to get more GPS devices, getting the data in such a way that we know what villages we are looking for, etc. Before I leave I want at least one of the provinces to have send out the first teams.

Then there are a ziljon smaller things: finding the PDAs that were planned to be used for the 2007 baseline survey, but were - of course - blocked at customs. Hiring somebody for several days to enter data from 100 randomly selected surveys to doublecheck the quality of previous data entry. Etc.


In January Voix des Kivus turned 6 months old; i.e. the end of the pilot, and a decision had to be made whether to continue or not. From our Ivory Tower in New York things looked good: more than a 1,000 messages were received. But what do our phoneholders think about the project (is it safe? Are they motivated? Etc.). And what does the development community in Eastern Congo think (Are they going to use the information?). So, we visted each of the phoneholders and we gave a presentation at the weekly UN OCHA meeting - where all development organizations get together - and it was clear that the project had to continue.

But continuation means growing. The pilot takes plane in only four villages; a very low number to give much useful information to, for example, the development community. So, decisions had to be made on how to expand and where, a code had to be written that randomly selects villages for entry into Voix des Kivus, new contracts have to be written for the Field and Technical Coordinator, more phones have to be bought, and a ziljon other things.

Finally, the grant for this project comes from USAID. Just before I left they gave me a camera and asked me whether I could make a small documentary about Voix des Kivus. So, now I am walking around with a camera; interviewing the phoneholders, people from the development community, etc.


If time permits, I hope to do three more things: 1. Meet up with Alain who buys and sells coltan, casserite, gold, etc. 2. Meet several economics, anthropology, sociology, etc. professors and students here in Bukavu. 3. Go to a village, completely map the village, sit down with people and talk with them for several hours, and really try to get at how it is to live in rural Congo.

Anyhow, maybe a boring post for you, but for me all of the above is really great stuff!

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