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Last day in Kampala

March 23, 2010

Thanks to the UNICEF country office’s internet connection, we are now able to post within minutes of our last meeting.  This is great, as it was a fast-paced and informative conversation with a representative of an organization that has some opinions about the appropriate speed and nature of data collection that are very different from previous meetings. Rather than collecting real-time data using technology, this organization is focused on more traditional cluster sampling. In an effort to keep costs low and make this surveillance system more sustainable, they currently collect data only three times per year. There is also talk of streamlining the system by reducing the number of indicators collected and focusing on seasonablility of data (some argue only two seasons are important in relation to agricultural and weather cycles) rather than arguably arbitrary four-month intervals.

In terms of analyzing specific forms of data (in this case, nutrition data) our interviewee explained that there are a few pieces of data analysis software that are generally agreed on. One notable example is ENA for SMART – Software for Emergency Nutrition Assessment

Another interesting portion of our conversation addressed the question of appropriately incentivizing those who collect data. It seems that, in contrast to the intangible incentives proposed by some organizations, others  feel that it is generally understood that “In Uganda, you can get nothing done without money”. I suspect that this difference of opinion may become important when considering larger surveillance system such as GIVAS.

Because this organization focuses on data that is collected at regular but infrequent intervals, we were curious to get their opinion of less formal, real-time information. They explained that it may be helpful to identify trends, but feel that if it is not both random and representative, it will be quite difficult to draw conclusions based on it.

The last portion of our discussion focused on the question of feedback. While, this is not a current component of this organization’s work, our interviewee did have some interesting thoughts on the matter. She feels that feedback, if used, should be presented in specific streamlined forms appropriate to different actors in the surveillance system. For example, perhaps District Health Officers would only receive information on the four performance indicators most relevant to them. One consideration for this sort of feedback system would be the amount of additional training that would be needed to enable those receiving feedback (especially those at the district level) to appropriately respond to it.

This is our last day in Uganda, and as such, we are working hard to type up our remaining notes and plan to squeeze in at least one more interview before we head to the airport. Each time I have told a Ugandan that I am leaving today, they’ve asked when (never if) I plan to return. I’m not sure when it will be, but I’m already looking forward to my next visit.

-Mark (Uganda Team)

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