Semi-Independent Research Projects

Over the past week, Robert and I have moved away from lecture-based instruction or guided exercises and have started to assist workshop participants with semi-independent research projects. With each of the participants now able to use ArcGIS to create maps centered around pre-determined themes (usually foreign aid or violent conflict), we felt that allowing workshop participants to make maps that were of interest to them would help to bring the trainings full circle and ensure that they would be able to apply the skills they have been practicing. We also broke up the trainings and created a schedule so that we could meet with each of the participants one-on-one to develop their ideas and make sure that all workshop participants were comfortable working with the software independently.

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Into the Field

This past week, the pace of my work changed drastically as I left the Transparency International central office in Kampala for “the field.” To ensure that the GIS trainings would continue to run smoothly while I was away, a necessity given that the classes will begin their independent research projects next week, I spent last weekend crafting exercises and Robert taught this week’s classes. In these classes, data aggregation techniques were reinforced and students were taught how to use several external applications, such as Tabula, which pulls information from tables in PDF documents and places it into an Excel spreadsheet.

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A Foray into GIS Instruction

After a week-long delay, caused by some difficulties coordinating with TI-U’s partner organizations, we are now nearing the completion of our second week of ArcGIS trainings. These trainings are divided into two sections, each of which meets twice a week for two hours, thus providing TI-U staff and its partners with a great deal of flexibility. This flexibility was a necessity given the hectic work schedules of training participants, many of whom divide their time between Kampala and frequent excursions into the field. As of right now, we are training nine individuals, four of whom are from TI-U, while the other five are divided between Citizen Watch-IT (election monitoring and social accountability) and Action for Development (women’s empowerment and advocacy).

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A Feel for Kampala

With two weeks in Kampala under my belt, I’ve begun to recover from my initial culture shock and acclimate to daily life in a developing metropolis. For this previously-uninitiated Westerner, that has required a great deal of compromise and a budding tolerance for boda-bodas (motorcycle taxis) on Kampala’s perpetually gridlocked, street sign-less roads. In this time, I’ve begun my work with Transparency International Uganda (TI-U), where I am working to visualize and interpret the spatial data in their “Action for Transparency” program, as well as assist my co-workers in gaining familiarity with geospatial data and tools to increase their internal technical capacity.

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Empowering Citizen Monitors in Uganda

Hey all!  My name is Justin DeShazor and this summer I’ll be working with Transparency International – Uganda as part of a joint partnership with the AidData Center for Development Policy, where I currently supervise a team of undergraduates who track and geocode development projects according to their purpose and geographic location.  I’ve been with AidData for almost two years, helping them produce an extensive database which provides this project-level geospatial information in a publicly-available format.  During this time, I also spent a semester with the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations in Washington D.C. utilizing AidData’s research products to inform the committee on foreign aid distributions in priority countries.  These experiences, which complement my double major in government and economics, have helped me to gain an immense appreciation for both the scale of the challenges in international development and the potential for policymakers and implementing partners to bring about meaningful progress when armed with accurate and accessible information.  Because Transparency International – Uganda has striven for over a decade to support such transparency and accountability, I am so excited to travel to Kampala (in my first trip outside of the United States) and participate in their work.

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