Post 22 – November 20th

What We Did: Welcome to London! We have been running around for the past four days holding 30-45 minute usability tests with users, shooting for the video, and attending an event at the Uganda High Commission. We’ve spoken with grad students who have moved from: Kenya, Tanzania, Sierra Leone, Ghana, Nigeria, Guatemala, and Puerto Rico. We’ve identified a number of issues, involving memorability, conventions, help & documentation, continuity, and unfamiliarity. Unsurprisingly, a number of people were tripped up by the backslash, which is necessary to execute the command. Several people could only remember a couple of commands after using the tutorial, which worked out fine for those who could remember the /help hot key. That needs to be emphasized more in general. At the Grow Movement event at the Uganda High Commission, we learned more about the challenges and successes of this parallel program which does small business mentorship over Skype. It was inspiring to see some real progress made, and good to hear about the real challenges as well (e.g. absenteeism). We learned that some of the mentorship was moving over to What’s App, due to it’s popularity in developing countries. Furthermore, we got some good feedback from Eunice, founder of the Africa Technology & Business Meetup in London, who we’ve been corresponding with since January. She mentioned opportunities to monetize our platform with banks, NGO’s, and charities. Challenges: The usability sessions turned out really well. We have a  lot of good feedback; now it’s a matter of parsing and synthesizing it, and deciding what to incorporate. Next Steps: We need to incorporate a lot of the feedback received from...

Post 19 – October 26

What We Did: Pressing ahead with our plan to go to London, we’ve been planning our itinerary and recruiting heavily for research participants. On our agenda is: test the working prototype with users, collect footage for the final video (including university footage, street views, and African students), and perform some observational research in local African neighborhoods. We’ve started exploring storyboard directions for the video by researching other types of promotional videos and analyzing the visuals, narrative structure, and messaging. As with last semester, we’re pulling out the big guns to find appropriate recruits. We want current or recently graduated students who got their Master’s degrees in London, came from an African country, and uses What’s App. We are asking all our friends and contacts to make direct introductions or referrals: 1-do they know any Africans living abroad 2-do they have any African friends from grad school 3-did they go to grad school abroad and have any African friends there. Additionally, we held three remote interviews this week, with Tilahun from Ethiopia, Lelo from Zimbabwe, and Tofi from Mexico. Some findings were: Tilahun fell into his Bachelor’s area of study because he tried what his friends did, and found that he enjoyed it as well. He only had one year to declare a major. Tilahun went to Copenhagen for a Master’s degree because his friends attended the year before. Since they had similar grades and profiles, he used them as a benchmark. He figured that he had a similar chance of getting in. Since Tilahun wanted to go an academic route, he consulted and followed the advice of his professors, noting that they too all had pHD’s. Lelo got into...

Post 14 – September 25th

What we’ve done Welcome back from summer! It’s been a doozy. To give you a quick recap of those events, the four of us planned for and attended the 27th Annual Ugandan North American Association Conference and Trade Expo. We’ve been in contact with the President of the UNAA, Brian M. Kwesiga, since the Spring to host participatory design workshops. We revisited and reshaped our four concepts from the Spring and presented three storyboards, along with a host of other activities, to the workshop participants. We received a lot of valuable feedback and commentary from our 18 participants and a couple dozen other conference attendees. We also engaged in the cultural events the conference had to offer, such as indulging in the prepared local cuisine. Tuesday, we presented our findings to M-ITI faculty advisors and were advised to down-select to one by Friday with our client. We then discussed the different deliverables due and assigned roles and responsibilities based off of who wanted what experience. Friday, we brought Chris, our client, up to speed and asked him to rank each concept comparatively, across how appealing it was to him, how innovative it was, how impactful, and how RootIO-related. Concept A (broadcast your expertise) was the least well-received, and Concept B (uncle-nephew spelling game) and C (mentor-matching) were more desirable due to the compelling nature of those relationships. Although we were unable to down-select to one, we feel that we’re moving in the right direction. Obstacles/What’s Next We still need to get to one. We are taking time to individually process Chris’ feedback (incorporate two-way dialogue between the diaspora and Uganda;...

Post 12 – May 1st

What we’ve done It’s been a busy week. We are concluding the research phase and will begin the synthesis and concepting phase next week. We have a few final interviews, namely with Ugandans living in Uganda – both are affiliated with youth development centers and should have insight into the tangible skills and goals of teenagers and young adults. Through the last couple weeks in this phase, we are exploring the Ugandan side of things more deeply, through interviews, literature review, and online surveys. We want to understand their perception of the diaspora, as well as their deeper wants and needs. Since our project is aimed at exploring ways to connect the diaspora to people back at home, Ugandans living in Uganda play a vital role in that exchange. We finally have our surveys ready for online deployment. They have gone through many rounds of refinement, and we’ve taken a close look at a similar survey written for the Albanian diaspora for comparison. There are two surveys: one for the diaspora, one for Ugandans at home. For the diaspora, we wrote a few weeder questions to assess the validity of the respondents, and the rest of the questions were modeled off of our standard interview questions. We added a couple more about their cultural identification; items they bring back from Uganda; and things they’ve been exposed to while abroad that they would have found useful in Uganda. For the Uganda side of things, some of the things we wanted to learn about included: what type of information they ask about from their counterparts abroad; what they would want Uganda...

Post 8 – March 26

What we’ve done: Now that we’ve met with Chris and have the go-ahead, we are moving firmly in the direction of researching non-financial ways the Ugandan diaspora may want to be involved with RootIO. Some initial research has exposed: a couple waves of migration, due to the politics of Idi Amin, conflicts with DRC, and the Lord’s Resistance Army; vibrant online diaspora publications; a large Ugandan presence in Tanzania, UK, and the US; the presence of brain drain; and the number of health professionals that leaveSSA to get educated abroad. We pulled together a list of over 30 contacts that will be engaging with the hope of getting an interview. We are contacting them now, and hoping to schedule interviews over the week of April 9-16. We have also settled on our analogous populations of study: Nigeria (for the significant size of it’s population), Romania (for it’s relative media-darkness), Puerto Rico (for the %age of legal immigrants abroad), and Guatemala (for the %age of illegal immigrants abroad). Obstacle/s: The response rate of our cold outreach is unpredictable. We have two solid connections grace a Robby, but everyone else is a stranger. We may have to make a second push to contact individuals, in the case of a low response rate, before our ideal week to schedule interviews (April 9-16). Visiting London is therefore up in the air. In addition, we want to make sure that we don’t get too distracted by setting up a radio station in Madeira (finding the exact legalities has not been straightforward). Furthermore, it will be a balancing act to make sure that we get...