The work and mumblings of Mark Iliffe

Engaging All Users, Not Just Developers


Taarifa is entering its endgame. Over the next week two workshops and two field tests will determine how the Ugandan Ministry of Local Government see the platform and wish to move forward with it. Currently there are three users, all with unknown requirements; the local civil servants (reporting), the national civil servant(s) (administrating) and the ministry (data users).

Currently the group which has been engaged the most are at the ministry level and as such dictate the forms and data-structure of the data which is to be collected. Taarifa (taking functionality from Ushahidi) is able to customise forms for data collection, in early stages it seems that Taarifa is being used to replicate forms directly, with – IMHO – a lot of unnecessary information. This boils down to asking what data the ministry actually requires to complete their job and that they use, instead of collecting data for the sake of it.

The Taarifa community is composes developers worked hand in glove with experts in water, sanitation and other fields. This brings a unique opportunity to design and implement software that focused on endemic issues not flashpoint crises. Taarifa could be badged as an e-government platform but goes beyond that in allowing two way interaction between government services and the citizens. This good on paper, however the platform is being demonstrated to the Ugandan Ministry of Local Government tomorrow. Engaging with them to better understand how existing functionality will fit into their workflows and what they further need is an important step and not one that should be taken lightly.

We already have buy in from the administrators on the system, now we’ve two user groups to get on board. This will be done with a series of workshops first with the Ministry then with the end users in the remotest parts of Uganda. We need more time for development, more time to understand the users and more time to operationalise. I have some fears, uncertainty and doubt. We have some bugs, and some misbehaving ‘features’. But the Taarifa platfom and community has come a long way since the London Hackathon. A roadmap is currently in production with ideas for big data visualisation. We’ve ported the code so the UI on a mobile device far outstrips known competitors (in our opinions!). This the future of Taarifa however this is pilot, and that time is now. Go big or go home. Yes, I’m a long way from home.

Written and submitted from the Kampala Sheraton, Kampala, Uganda (0.3145283,32.5828674)

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