For someone who wants to be based all over the world for work, I get some serious travel anxiety. Today, I rationalize that it is nerves for the upcoming competition and conference as well as that old impatience to arrive somewhere new. I’m sitting in the Amsterdam airport waiting for my connecting flight to Geneva. It’s 8am and I’ve slept maybe a full 5 hours. The customs officer didn’t help my anxiety. When he asked why I was going to Geneva, and I said for a conference, he said “oh, the big ITU conference? A lot of people are going to that today” provoking the best form of anxiety, eagerness and just a hint of hesitation.
So many people? The ITU is a UN body, so I should have known it would be big. I can expect about 45 competitors for the young innovators competition, but I didn’t even consider how many other people working in international telecommunications would be there. After arriving in Geneva, and waiting for the shuttle to take me to the Holiday Inn Express, I spoke with a man from Intel who will be on the conference trade floor. He told me that ITU use to be the largest telecom trade show in the world, with at least 100,000 in attendance, but now it’s shifting focus to include governmental institutions more, so it’s smaller only in the 10’s of thousands.
My hesitation is only related to telecom. I have experience in distance learning, project planning, and activism. I have very little telecom experience (some might say none, but they’re actually in the telecom field so, they have higher standards). But the idea of using mobile phones as a tool for activism and learning, as well as coordination and communication, is opening a whole new train of thought to me.
How best can we use mobiles to encourage learning and civic participation in resource constrained settings? And more practically, how best can the Infectious Disease Institute use mobiles in continuing medical education of health care practitioners in rural Uganda (and larger, in sub-Saharan Africa)? The first step to answering these questions is to understand the needs of this community (working on that with IDI staff and trainees), then the use of mobiles (asking questions, assessing facilities), then to really build and/or adapt a tool that can store data, run with minimal management, and last long after the GHC fellows leave.
And that’s my goal of this week. Oh and to try my hardest to win some seed funding for the project.