eRiding Adventures in Southern Africa
Submited by Teresa Crawford
Just wanted to drop everyone a line from South Africa. I have been quiet on the list these last few weeks because I am working with the eRider team from Ungana-Afrika on a project in Southern Africa.
We are attempting to visit 4 countries in 4 weeks and meet with a range of NGOs and CBOs working on HIV/AIDS issues to get a sense of their information management and IT needs. We are visiting government officials, national AIDS coordinating bodies, NGO networks, NGO managers, frontline care givers, and clinics.
The project is being lead by EngenderHealth (Bill Lester with NinthBridge) with support from the Ungana-Afrika eRider team, CSIR (Council on Scientific and Industrial Research in South Africa)and funded by Open Society Institute - ICT Toolsets program. It is a perfect example of how to make use of the effective eRider network and build bridges with open source developers.
So far - a team consisting of me, Rudi, Tshepo and Thale (eRiders) and Goodwill (Open Source developer) - have conducted focus groups, interviews and NGO technical assessments in South Africa, Swaziland and Botswana. Tomorrow we are off to Zambia.
This project has required a knowledge of NGOs, IT issues, software development, Southern Africa and the health and HIV/AIDS sector. There is no way I could have been as effective and learned as much implementing this alone. It addition it would not have been nearly as much fun.
We have used several new tools including - focus groups, knowledge mapping exercises and the Tech Surveyor offline specs gathering utility. Each team member has focused on different issues related to development, deployment, sustainability and training.
Back in the US Bill has been putting together an analysis of existing software tools that help clinics and organizations manage patient data. We will be reconciling the requirements we gather in the field with the specs on these tools.
Opportunities for eRiding projects keep popping up all over. Orphan and Vulnerable Children NGO network in Botswana, Testing and Counseling Center Network in Swaziland and a CBO community care network in South Africa. All want to make their work more effective, efficient and make use of IT.
So far an amazing trip and in many ways the only way to implement these kinds of projects - tapping in to existing networks and resources, building local capacity to implement projects such as this in the future and building bridges between organizations and individuals.