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It’s the People, People: Reflections on Kenya

April 14, 2009
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I’m really late in writing this. There is no point in going on and on about being busy with work and school, so I won’t. Let’s get to it.

Having returned from Kenya at the end of March, my team and I prepared our debriefing presentations toour client DataDyne.org and  United Nations Foundation and the Vodafone Group Foundation. We also presented at the Science and Technology in Society Conference hosted by the ST Global Consortium in Washington, DC, where we won first place for best presentation. The presentations and questions we’ve received thus far have been valuable in keeping our ideas fresh and helping us plan what we will focus on in our final report. Tonight, we present for about 40 minutes to our capstone class. So we know our stuff at this point, but what are some of my personal reflections on the trip? Please keep reading!

Thoughts on Kenya-

Appropriate technologies are key, but it is easy to get caught up on interest in the technologies and the shininess and excitement of new gadgets. At the end of the day, however, we must remember that technologies are tools. They are there to support us, not do the work for us, and until the days when robots really start to take over, the tools are not meant to do the work for us, nor will they.

As someone who trys to be somewhat technologically ‘with it’ and firmly believes that the way we work and interact and more importantly share is going to change profoundly over the next few years due to technology, one of my personal key take aways is that the people using the technologies and implementing the technologies are vital. I don’t know if I can stress it enough to myself, and even though it seems so obvious, like any other initiative, project or program an organization undertakes, the people making that happen are the most important variable.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the use of social media these days. There still is a lot of uncertainty about the value of various web 2.0 tools like twitter, yammer, etc. It is quite normal. What I find interesting is now our tools are becoming more and more software based and up until very recently, they’ve been hardware based. In our study, the EpiSurveyor application itself matters a lot more than the PDA or cell phone it is being run on. But I think this is a new phenomenon, and possibly one of the reasons certain software tools have yet to be adopted more thoroughly by the public. Since the beginning of time we’ve held tools in our hands, now, the hardware is turning into an enabling device for the real tool, which is the software. Maybe this is why people want things smaller and cheaper than ever before, maybe because we are starting to realize bigger is not always better and that focusing on usefulness is the way to go.

But I digress. Kenya was an amazing experience. The people were fantastic. I encourag everyone to go. We spent our time in Nairobi and Mombasa and the entire experience both professionally and personally, far exceeded my expectations (we had a lot more fun than we though we would!)

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