First time in Zambia means to switch from your daily office work into a more human approach, where names and roles within organizations become real people with actual needs to address. Suddenly, the project proposals you have read until now on paper and couldn't talk are now able to communicate you their achievements and future steps.
During the first week in Lusaka with Olaf, the tight agenda started early in the morning everyday. Breakfast at 7:30am and jump into the taxi to the first meeting. On the way to the partner office, main points of the meeting are discussed so we both know what we expect from it. Once arrived, the introductions take place and the discussion is launched. The role of the Capacity Development officer is, once the project as started, to follow the project partners needs in terms of capacity building and assist them on the best way to make it real. Depending on the project goals, we use different methodologies so our partners get empowered with appropriate technical skills: technical update seminars, on-the-job training or train-the-trainer workshops are different approach used within IICD. When the project uses tailored ICT tools that have to be developed, a partnership with other local organizations is used so the capacity is built on and for the country.
One example of this wining cycle is the project with the Zambian National Transfusion Services (ZNBTS), where an integrated donor tracking system is developed by the Open Source Zambian Initiative (OSZi). The main objective of the ICT solution is to be able to track valid blood donors and alert them via SMS when a new donation can be done. Another objective is to record electronically the donations so new accurate statistics about the number of donors and donations will be available to the decision-makers at the government. The solution will be initially deployed in three provinces (Lusaka, Mongu and Kitwe) but the project is targeted to be scaled-up on a country level.
Although most of the visits were located in Lusaka, the capital of Zambia, I also travelled to the Western province to meet with the project staff of the Home-Base Care Program in Mongu. At this moment, the staff are being trained in order to use a new ICT tool that allows them to record medical information of the patients they visit. Until now, an obsolete system based on hard-copies were used to manage their clinical history and treatments.
In the second week, Saskia arrived to Zambia as former CapDev officer and with her, new meetings with more partners: lunch with the eBrain Secretary and National Coordinator, late night brainstorming session with the OSZi core developers team, etc. The week almost over, we took the road again with Saskia to get to Kitwe, in the Copperbelt province where a Train the Trainer workshop was taking place. This modality of workshop aims to provide trainers with a better level of knowledge on how to train ICT within their projects, so a multiplied effect can take place. During four days, twenty trainers from different IICD projects had shared seats, thoughts and opinions about how to perform better needs assessments and then prepare better training plans. Although we could only assist partially to the last day, I could see how useful is to put together people that work in the same direction. Sharing and discussing challenges can be so powerful and encouraging sometimes...
Even the last night, in Lusaka again, couldn't have been more inspiring. The OSZi team had organized a social gathering, also called “Installation Party”, where some members where showing live installations on several Linux systems. Discussions about open source software and its applications and social networking were there that night. It is so encouraging to find young fellows gathering and sharing the open source cause...
Saturday afternoon at Lusaka airport we were leaving Zambia, back to The Netherlands. On the mean time, laptops switched-on and time to document what I have seen until now. Once in Schiphol among thousands of busy people, only my slippers could remind me of Zambia,... until the next trip!