July 9th -11th 2014 marked yet a great partnership bringing ResilientAfrica Network (RAN) and the AidData Center for Development Policy (AidData Center) -USA, Development Labs under the Higher Education Solutions Network (HESN) to deliver GIS Training.
RAN funded by USAID is a partnership targeting 20 universities in 16 African countries. It is aimed at strengthening resilience of communities vulnerable to shocks and stresses in Sub-Saharan Africa through university led-local African innovative solutions. The Network is led by Makerere University, School of Public Health and is one of the eight global development labs under the Higher Education Solutions Network (HESN). RAN’s core partners include; Tulane University’s Disaster Resilience Leadership Academy (DRLA), Stanford University and the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).
AidData is a research and innovation lab that seeks to improve development outcomes by making development data more accessible and actionable. The HESN network is creating a vibrant framework of cooperation between development professionals and the academia by harnessing the ingenuity and passion of scientists, students, faculty, and entrepreneurs to solve some of the world’s most pressing development challenges.
In pursuit of a vibrant HESN inter university collaboration, RAN and AidData utilized the internship program (summer internship) that spans from June to August during which time university students (Graduate and Undergraduate) are placed in organizations to acquire practical skills and experience to complement the theoretical knowledge acquired in class. Students are exposed to an environment that gives them hands-on assignments and project tasks to gain in-depth real world training, and acquisition of professional virtues and expertise.
During the summer of 2014, AidData sent eight summer fellows to Uganda, who were placed in different host organisations to help Geo code data. These fellows also had flexible Fridays of every week during which they trained and interacted with the RAN students. The summer fellows were from The College William & Mary, Texas A&M, University of Southern Illinois, George-town and two from Makerere University that made up the AidData cohort. It was a concerted effort between
RAN, AidData and the Department of Geo-informatics and Climatic Sciences in College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences at Makerere University to deliver a 3 day GIS training to Makerere University faculty and students. In the training, participants were able to get acquainted with ArcGIS Software suite from the basics of traversing the software and chronologically tackled other topics for intermediary users. Later, they covered more advanced concepts like summary statistics, aggregation of data, spatial thinking and spatial analysis. The participants also had a special session on Geo-coding using the AidData toolkit and use of the AidData methodology. All participants were able to access the Aid Management platform which enabled them to Geocode data from different case studies from the World Bank and other reputable data sources available online.
At the end of the training, they worked on a project, which tested all the theories that had been covered in the 3 days. 34 participants who included 11 females and 23 males took part in this practical and stimulating training. The training attracted individuals from different disciplines including a Professor, Lecturers, PhD student, Masters Students, Undergraduate students and other technical staff like Systems Administrators/ Lab technicians. These all generally reported that the training was very useful and timely. They needed GIS skills to excel in their Research, coursework exercises and class projects. Participants were awarded certificates of course completion. The professor at the training remarked “I am exceptionally indebted to RAN and AidData for delivering such an informative and knowledge building training”.
AidData worked closely with RAN in an effort to build capacity to geocode development data, create an open resource to display geocoded RAN datasets. “We will finally hold a joint GIS hackathon at the end of the summer internship to further engage the students to catalyze innovative uses of geocoded aid and development data” Deborah Naatujuna Nkwanga-RAN Engagement Manager. This collaboration will help create a community of producers and users of geocoded data and geospatial analysts that will enable long-term research collaboration between the AidData center and RAN.
Some of the participants had this to say;
- The training was very good. It should be extended to a wider community in the future
- The training materials were very helpful and the facilitators from AidData were very good and knowledgeable, I am happy to have taken part in this training.
- We are happy to have acquired GIS skills and knowledge, well delivered by fellows from Texas A& M and College of William and Mary – USA