Tuesday, September 28, 2010
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
- We discussed the idea behind the evaluation, including the importance of randomization; both for selecting the 1,120 villages and for selecting the treatment and control villages of the program we're evaluating;
- How to conduct and take measures during general assemblies;
- How to conduct and take measures during focus groups;
- During step A and B a lot measures are taken along the way, so we had to go over all these different forms, which includes several different types of surveys (the chief, households, different types of general assembly participants, committee members, etc.);
- There were also practical things that had to be discussed: 1. When and how to go to which village (there is a schedule to follow); 2. language to be used in the field (we worked on the protocol and scripts for over a year); 3. how to take GPS coordinates (in each villages more than 10 coordinates will be taken); 4. How to randomly select households, people within household, and people from general assemblies; 5. how to use PDAs (all forms will have to be filled out on PDAs); 6. how to charge PDAs with solar panels; 7. how to upload data from PDAs to laptops; 8. how to drive a motorbike, etc.;
- All these things had to be practiced, so we created games, exercises and played a lot (a lot!) of simulations;
- And because only a sample would be selected from all the people present, we also created exams - as an extra measure - to get at people's quality level.
More on training
Training is so important. We have been working on this final part of the evaluation (step A-D) for over a year (the evaluation itself started in 2007); creating surveys, protocols, scripts, etc. When all combined this document is over 200 pages big. Needless to say, while we can discuss language for days, think carefully about which questions to ask, etc. if the people in the field do not understand things, we could just as well throw away those 200+ pages. This is quite a scary thought;
In total, professor Chimanuka - the implementing partner for Sud Kivu and Maniema - had brought 25 people to the training; this so that we could select the best 14. This was not an easy thing to do at all. Most of them were older than Raul and me, some were doctors, lawyers, etc. and above all many were unemployed but with a family and there were some that had left their job for this; all to get this job with one-year job security;
Raul had been sick-ish in the two weeks running up to the training. On Monday he got really sick and Professor Chimanuka - a specialist on malaria - tested him for malaria: he tested positive. Despite the fact that he looked and felt horrible last week, he kept on teaching - and very impressively;
We noticed that Congo seems to have a very different teaching-style than Raul and me are used to. Here students seem to listen and frantically try to copy whatever the professor says into their notebooks. We quickly got rid of that and moved to simulations, exercises and them teaching each other. People really seemd to enjoy this and, we hope, learned much more as a result.
- When do you know that people start applying what you taught them? Well, during lunch we walked around the room with a bunch of bananas for the people to take. One student replied: "I will choose my banana randomly." HA!
Then on Saturday evening it was over. After a very intense week it was finally time to relax and get to know each other socially. We first went to a local restaurant where we ate and drank until late in the evening. After that we visited "Parc au Prince" and danced until early in the morning. We not only have 14 very smart people, they are also a great group socially - something that is going to be important when in the field together for a year.
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
Monday, September 13, 2010
Sunday, September 12, 2010
- Raul and I will split up in a week; I will be responsible for and living in the provinces Maniema and Sud Kivu; Raul has the provinces Tanganyika and Haut Katanga. The idea is that each of us will have a 'counterpart' with whom we will work closely together and train along the way for two reasons. 1. While we will leave the Congo in January, the evaluation continues for another half a year; the counterparts can take over from us. 2. It's a perfect knowledge-sharing opportunity. Raul and I will learn a lot about the Congo, and we can learn them about statistics, computer programs, etc. We want this counterpart to be a Doctoral student. So, Raul and I first presented the development project (Tuungane), which was then followed by a discussion about how the best evaluation would look like - in the meantime Raul and I checked carefully what they were saying and whether there was somebody that could be a counterpart.
- Needless to say, Raul and I also wanted to get to know Congolese academics - for us to see what they are working on and vice versa. So we had brief presentations of our research topics and after each we had several minutes of discussion. Raul and I presented our dissertation topics; Raul discussed the institution of the dowry, and I talked about migration and public good provision.
Sunday, September 5, 2010
Saturday, September 4, 2010
- The other taxi drivers. Let's say that the taxi-driver knows from experience that there are more fast drivers than slow ones. As a result, the best strategy could be to become a slow driver because many potential customers are not picked up by the fast ones. So it could be that the distribution of fast and slow drivers is important.
- The mood of the driver that day. Maybe there is nothing rational to all this. Maybe after a fight with his wife in the morning, the taxi-driver is angry and thus puts the metal to the gas a bit more than otherwise. Thus, maybe a taxi-driver doesn't choose either one strategy for the rest of his/her taxi-driving career. One step further, maybe what is actually happening is that a driver has some mixed strategy where he drives fast some days (or hours) and slow the other.
- Reaction speed of the driver. If a taxi-driver is quick to react, he is less likely to miss potential customers. Consequently, these guys are maybe more willing to become fast drivers.
- Volume of the horn. Maybe what is important is the volume of the horn. If it is possible from a long distance away to notify potential customers that you are coming they have more time to walk to the road, and it is thus less likely you will miss them; i.e. you are more likely to be a fast driver.
- Any more?
- These cards seem to be valid for a year.
- Let's say there are a total of 1 million Zain users in Congo.
[the DRC has a population of around 60 million people. Most of the country doesn't have coverage, but the big cities do. While Bukavu has only about 300,000 inhabitants, other cities are substantially bigger. The capital Kinshasa, for example, has 10 million inhabitants. So, let's run with 1 million Zain users for now.]
- Every week I use about 6 of these 500 unites pieces of paper; or 30 of them if would buy the 100 unites. While I don't call much, I am a Mzungu and very rich so let's say on average people use 10 of these pieces of paper per week. That is, per year at least 520,000,000 times (1,000,000 * 10 * 52) those 13 digits numbers are used.
- It's possible that Zain doesn't introduce these unites on the market at the beginning of the year, but gradually throughout the year. Also, we have to take into account that once a person uses one of these 13 digit numbers it can't be used anymore. However, we also have to take into account that there should be many more than the 0.52 billion pieces of paper around because sellers needs reserves.
- So, let's say that around half a billion of these 13 digit numbers work and we know that there are 10 trillion (10^13 possibilities).
- You see where I am going?
- 1 out of every 2,000 tries should give you a hit. That is, on average every 2,000 times you enter a 13 digit number you earn yourself a dollar.
- Many people in the Congo have cellphones. Many people are also unemployed. Filling in a 13 digit number takes less than 10 seconds, so every hour you can try around 400 times. In other words, when working an 10 hour day you earn yourself 2 dollars.
- IDEA: What about hiring 100s of people, giving them a list with 1000s of unique 13 digit numbers on it and they can keep 100% of the profit.
- BUT: I'm sure Zain must have thought and calculated this through; it would have been relatively easy for them to put 14 numbers on the cards instead of 13. I am still curious though.
Wednesday, September 1, 2010
- Africa is a Country: Blog on Africa.
- African Arguments: Blog by the RAS and SSRC on Africa.
- Alex Engwete: Very informative blog on the Congo.
- Chris Blattman: Great blog on international development.
- Congo Blog: Blog on... Congo.
- Congo Siasa: Incredible blog on Congo by Jason Stearns.
- IRIN News: UN news on development issues.
- Project Syndicate: Ideas by some of the brightest minds in the world on development.
- Radio Okapi: News on events in the Congo by MONUSCO.
- Rootless Minds: Blog by friend and colleague Raul (until January with me in the Congo).
- Relief Web: Informative website on development issues.
- Solo Kinshasa: Blog about Kinshasa - capital of the DR Congo.
- Texas in Africa: Great blog by Laura Seay on development issues with a focus on the Great Lakes.
- Wronging Rights: Brilliantly sarcastic blog on development issues by (a.o.) colleague Kate.
- Wired Science: Great blog on sciency things.