Busy first week in Kigali… this city seems to be the nexus of the world’s development organizations, which makes it easy to meet a lot of people in a short amount of time.  I had ten responses in an earlier post I made in search of housing; seven of the responders were from NGO’s, four of them were relevant to my research…  Here’s a quick recap:

The kind people at the Kigali Institute of Science and Technology (KIST) have agreed to let me use one of their classrooms for the month, and the head of their ICT training program helped pick out 6 of their top students, all of whom were interested in working as RAs with me this month.  In the end, I hired two: together they’ll help me coordinate the phone survey I’ll be running over the next few weeks, and will also serve as impromptu translators and helpers with the random things that come up.  This coming week we’ll start piloting the survey, and hiring a handful of other students to work as surveyors.

Also in the mix was a bunch of meetings with people from various ministries.  The Rwanda Information Technology Authority has about 100 employees, and coordinates all the government-related ICT deployments.  Worth following up with them on an SMS-based system to collect commodity prices, due to launch next month, in cooperation with Voxiva.  Also met with a woman from the National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda, who will hopefully be able to help me write my survey in an intelligent way, and connect me to people at the Ministry of Agriculture.  Lastly, I met with a contractor at RITA who, with his kid brother, are about to start a company that uses ICT’s to collect and resell milk in the eastern district of Gatsibo.  Am hoping to go visit their dairy farm of 80 cows at some point.

Less formally, I went to an ex-pat pig roast that was completely overrun with young ngo workers.  The regional director of technoserve was there with a group of his employees, whom I will hopefully soon have a chance to talk to when everyone is more sober.  A great group of people was also there from the One Acre Fund.  OAF work with 5,000 farmers in the far western district of Nyamasheke (and also have operations in Kenya and somewhere else).  They work with smallholder farmers to get them high quality seed and fertilizer, using a joint-liability lending model.  Though it’s unclear whether they have much use for ICT’s at this point, I’ll probably make the trip out there next week to shadow one of the guys as he makes the rounds with a set of bean farmers.

Finally, there were some fun things.  I put some youtube videos up of this weird moto-polo thing that the expats do here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HfCmpP5VFGQ  I also happened to be around for the 15th anniversary of the end of the Genocide, at which Kagame, Museveni, and some others spoke.  The crowd was enthusiastic (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XJsYeCYknlc and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gAji4XxMEnw).

Guess that’s it.  Looking ahead, this week my collaborator from SFI will be in town, I’m going to try to get the pilot underway, and also talk to the people from SIMTEL and George’s from from Voxiva.  And again, if anyone out there wants a short break, Kigali is a beautiful, friendly city.