Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Off to Rwanda

As most of you know, I'm headed to Rwanda for a month. I happened across the opportunity through a friend of mine involved with a UW project which interviewed judges and prosecutors involved with the trials surrounding the genocide. In September of last year they gathered hours upon hours of footage exploring the goals and challenges of bringing justice, and possibly even more importantly reconciliation to Rwanda. The goal of the project this summer is to find ways of distributing said footage in ways such that it will be available to the Rwandan people. One method of doing so that is being explored is via mobile phones, which is where I come in. I've decided to try to help them use mobile technology to see whether we might be able to spread the information in video or audio form to a broader swatch of Rwanda.

When first becoming involved with the project I will admit to being somewhat skeptical as to the use of mobile technology to achieve this purpose. I didn't know much about Rwanda or Sub Saharan African in general, but it seemed far fetched. As it turns out, I couldn't have been more wrong. Mobile phones are incredibly wide spread, and in many ways are used in the same ways we use our personal computers. A good portions of Rwandans pay for their electricity using SMS, farmers find out the current spot price for their crops via text-messaging, in some parts of Africa it is common to use pre-paid minutes as a form of currency, transferring them instantly as a form of payment.

So part of my goal while in Rwanda is to explore and implement some solutions to deliver this content. I've built some prototype systems here that I'll be testing and I'll be helping set up information kiosks at the ICTR kiosks to deliver the video content.

My second (but not secondary) goal is to make some contacts in Rwanda with local businessmen and officials to see if there might be a system I could build during my time there that would be useful to the general population. Something not related to the genocide, perhaps something with an educational bias or an information delivery system of some kind. If you have any ideas along those lines, feel free to let me know, I'll be exploring many different options while there.

As usual when I'm off somewhere random, I'll be keeping this blog pretty up to date, so if you are interested, tune on in. I can't promise that it will always be entertaining, as a matter of fact there will probably be a good deal of technical posts as I document what I'm doing, but I'll do my best to keep it fairly interesting.

Lastly, a big shout out and thanks to David and especially Eric at Trileet for letting me take this little sabbatical. Eric you are both the best friend and best business partner I could hope for and I thank you for humoring my little adventures now and then.


  1. Big shout out to you, Nic. I think you are about the best person ever. Will be hanging onto your every word.

  2. Wow, very cool project Nic...
    I am impressed and jealous :)

  3. You and your damn jealousy blogs! It's working btw.