Going to the field – Part 2

September 31

Today was my first experience giving a survey in Uganda and giving a survey about technology.  I’ve surveyed people before, but usually about human rights, or their use of public space, or what they would like to see changed in their community.  Never about something as cold and distant as technology.  Particularly in the health center context that is so warm and pulsating that it’s bleeding out.  Busiu Health Center IV reeks of life in all the good and bad ways to do that.  But I’m not totally irrelevant.  I’m trying, with my partner Raymond and the IDI team, to develop a mLearning tool that can reach health workers who don’t have a computer, don’t know how to use one, and don’t have the time to go to trainings that take days to stay up on the newest ways to treat, care for patients with and prevent TB, HIV/AIDS or malaria.

Needless to say, I was a bit intimidated in front of this crowd of hardnosed realistic health practitioners working in Busiu.  The health community here was just shaken up by the news that a woman was denied treatment at the local Mbale hospital during her pregnancy because she lacked 300,000USH (about $120US) and died in the waiting room.  It recalls the gruesome scene in a New York emergency room in 2008,  reminding me that this isn’t a “third world problem.”  Like most places though, no one talks of bad news or admits fault.  The team I’m with just shook their head at the news and told their own gruesome stories of births without medical attendants.

That was the second rude awakening of the trip.  The first was the survey.  The survey was a dramatically, a disaster, realistically, a mild nuisance.  The first page, which asks for basic information like the date of the original training, was completely confusing, even to the facilitators in the mobile team.  I told everyone to ignore it after trying to explain it one on one.  In retrospect, I should have gone through each page with the trainees assembled before asking them to fill it out.  At least I remembered to introduce myself.  I will also have to remember to thank everyone tomorrow for their participation and welcome.  It’s these courtesies that are so easy to forget.

The data looks good after the first round.  I have 13 completed surveys after day one and will hopefully get at least 7 more returned to me tomorrow to have a comfortable sample from this location of n=20.  Then next week is at least 20 more.  And then back to Kampala with lots of tweaking to do.  Some of the questions, in retrospect, are redundant and show very little about the trainees actual technology needs.  A more detailed survey, with the same basic questions but with less redundant questions about the facilities resources (no there is no internet, everyone agrees, but that tells me nothing) and more details about computer skills (like how would you rate your computer skills? None, Basic, can turn on the computer and find programs, intermediate, can use the internet for e mail and are familiar with some software such as Microsoft Word, and advanced, use computers frequently for work, etc).

IDI can’t have a computer based distance learning program with trainees who don’t know how to turn on a computer!  But it’s a start.

But now, as I sit at the “Starbucks” of Mbale, and relax after a long day of data entry and initial assessment, I’m beginning to think that this is a worthwhile venture.


**Pictures to come when I have bandwidth


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