February 21, 2022

Piloting Sabasi: Data Collection Made for Africa

This week, our Technology Director, John Mucheke, gives quite an engaging first-hand account of his time in Bujumbura, where we are working together with the Lake Tanganyika Floating Health Clinic (LTFHC) to pilot the use of our survey tool, Sabasi, for easing the data management process for health data that is critical to LTFHC.

View of Bujumbura City [image credit]

I arrived in Bujumbura, Burundi, on a sunny Thursday morning and, wasting no time, went straight into introductions with the team on the ground. We immediately begun identifying the resources we already had for the training, then begun the training. Communication proved to be a challenge given that French is the main language, and not everyone speaks Swahili.

I had the pleasure of meeting three Lake Tanganyika Floating Health Clinic (LTFHC) colleagues: Aris Macos, Head of Field Work, Justin Kongolo, Head of Programmes and Alain Mutiki. Aris is Greek, and has lived in Burundi for over 40 years, even living through the civil war. Justin is from Congo and he speaks six languages fluently. He was a great help in translating from English to Alain, who is also Congolese, but knows enough of English and Swahili to hold a conversation, unlike me, who last spoke French in my Class 3 Primary School days. That was the introduction part of our session.

From the airport, I was whisked to Aris’s home where the training was set to take place.
Side note: It’s shocking and alarming to see military patrols all over the city with those outfitted seats in the boot of the famous – never say die – Land Cruiser. They were brandishing machine guns like M2s, MG-42s, M2A1s and, I kid you not, RPG! Talk about over kill and ready for Armageddon as they rolled down the streets as if they were window shopping. I am sure at this point you may be wondering, “How does he know so much about guns?” Clearly a tad too much online gaming.
Anyway I digress, Bujumbura is a beautiful city and pretty much resembles Kisumu in Kenya: clean but old building and broad roads.

At the house, we identified the resources we would need for the training. All the mobile tablets had been seized by customs, who were demanding for tax payment despite the fact that they are for humanitarian purposes. Internet was a real challenge in the area (and best believe I’ll never call our internet service providers to complain about slow internet speeds again – we’ve got it good!)

We started off by installing the app in our personal devices then provided credentials for the team to use, given that the exercise was more of a practical training from the field worker’s perspective. I took them through the following processes:

  • Login to the app
  • Viewing surveys
  • Loading surveys into the devices for offline use
  • Bluetooth features
  • Exporting responses
  • Importing responses
  • Uploading responses/completed surveys to the server

As we were going through the app, we picked out some bugs which I immediately passed on to the Tech Team for fixing, and these changes were implemented into the Sabasi app.

It was a fast paced, exciting time for me, and I will definitely be working to improve on my French for next time!

We have been developing Sabasi as a free and open-source tool designed to help individuals and organizations to collect and manage data. We realised that there are a lot of tools out there, but many of them do not work in our context, where we frequently need to do our work in very remote areas. Designed for our African context, Sabasi is easy to use and requires minimal training. The challenges of internet connectivity on the continent are well known, and with his in mind, Sabasi provides a way to collect data offline, on any Android device and use Bluetooth connectivity to share responses and surveys. As Africans, we are known for our multilingual culture, and Sabasi provides translation services to the most common African languages.

We will be telling you a lot more about this project, so stay tuned for more updates!

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