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To Kenya and beyond

March 7, 2009

I admit, I have not been great at keeping this blog updated, although I have been thinking about it quite a lot. The good thing is, that it is a process. I doubt anyone who starts a blog is able to make posting a habit overnight. But anyway…

The title of this post, to Kenya and beyond, holds true as I sit here in London’s Heathrow airport on hour ten of a 12 hour layover between Washington, DC and Nairobi, Kenya. About a year ago, I was sitting in a bar in Canada with the director of my graduate program and two other classmates, since we were visiting the University of Ottawa to attend the Allen Bromley Lecture on Science and Technology. Over that beer was when I approached our director about changing the format for our final capstone course to allow students to work for clients and conduct studies or evaluations for them overseas. Fast forward to today, having found a client (www.datadyne.org), secured funding, and developed a framework and model with which to study a user’s acceptance of ICT technologies for collecting public health data. I’ll go into more of that later.

The fact is, this time tomorrow I will be in Nairobi, Kenya. To some, this may not seem like a big deal. I, however, am really quite excited, proud, and nervous. I would not have thought that during my graduate studies I would find myself on his trip. I know I have assumptions and preconceived notions about what Kenya will be like as it is impossible to travel anymore without some level of expectation, be it correct or not. We’ve read about not going out at night, being careful while in cars, not drinking the water or eating fruits and vegetables. We have also read about how the people of Kenya are extremely friendly and welcoming.

I am looking forward so much to this trip in part because we are working on such an exciting project, but mostly because I am interested in seeing how the people live. The way people are similar and different in parts of the world is the learning experiences that I cherish most.

As someone who studies ‘development’ I am looking forward to this trip breaking my assumptions and challenging even more my assumptions and learnings and worldview. I hope this trip inspires me to continue on the path towards development work, while giving me another first hand view of what works and especially what is not working. The ‘what is not working’ discussion needs to happen more often, and though I doubt we will see much of that through our study (since their program is very successful), in general I hope to return home with some valuable insights.

I’ll post pictures and thoughts and hope to learn about things I don’t even know are there to learn. Luckily, I am with a great group of people who are very observant, thoughtful, and brilliant people and I know that together we will get the most out of this trip that is possible.

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