The Isôoko project investigates the use of digital technologies (and in particular digital platforms) for the purpose of peace building (and in particular peace education) in East Africa. In order to complement currently available digital technologies, the second strand of the project focuses on the development of a platform to peace education activities. As part of our 3+ year effort to develop insights and technologies related to this we have been conducting a range of trials in Kenya and Rwanda related to this question.
Designing our trials
The trials themselves were preceded by more than a year of design exercises and desk research that lead to the conception of four trials that were conducted between September 2019 and April 2020.
To inform these trials some preliminary testing had taken place earlier in 2019. This included a fully fledged trial of Democratic Reflection with Aegis Trust, our consortium partner that (in the context of the Isôoko project) focuses on peace building activities in Rwanda. We explored the value of such a technology for the development of critical thinking and active listening skills with Aegis Trust stakeholders. However, the main purpose was to trial our research methodologies and M&E (monitoring and evaluation) approaches.
The design process, led at the time by HumanityX staff from the University of Leiden, identified a range of use cases and user scenarios that offered themselves for the application of BRCK/Moja and Ushahidi digital technologies. As mentioned below four scenarios were trialled.
Four complementary trials
- In Rwanda a Platform Evaluation Trial was conducted. As there were no available evaluations of the BRCK/Moja platform in the Rwandan context we wanted to explore how the introduction of this technology has changed the information consumption and perceptions of digital media in the Rwandan context.
- Also in Rwanda we conducted a Bus Trial where audiovisual content, developed and provided by Aegis Trust, was distributed via the existing BRCK/Moja network on the Rwandan public transport systems. This also allowed us to trial the technical components that had been developed in the Isôoko project (e.g. the integration of Ushahidi crowdsourcing technology with BRCK/Moja digital access points.)
- The last trial we conducted in Rwanda at that time focussed on how an individual BRCK/Moja device (rather than a network of devices like on the transport system) can be deployed for the aim of peace building. A device, upgraded with peace building content and crowdsourcing technologies from the Isôoko project, was placed in a rural Youth Centre (Vision Jeunesse Nouvelle) for youths and staff to access.
- Finally, in the Kenyan context, we conducted a trial in support of Kibera News Network (KNN), an online media channel by Map Kibera, covering Kibera news from a local perspective. For this trial, a single BRCK device was used as an Internet hotspot, from which participants could access two videos on democracy and corruption and respond to a set of survey questions related to the two videos.
What we found
The trials, that were conducted in preparation of the much larger pilots (to be conducted in late 2020 and early 2021), highlighted a range of cross-cutting themes. At the time of writing the comprehensive analysis of all data is not completed but preliminary results are strong enough to be shared.
- The trials were essential for the development of appropriate mixed methodologies for the pilots. A range of methodological lessons have been learned including: a. Quantitative methods for the monitoring and evaluation of peace building outcomes (as applicable to the deployment of digital platforms) have substantial shortcomings in terms of evidencing contribution and attribution. Statistically significant findings were difficult to obtain which makes triangulation of data with qualitative methods a prerequisite for all methodologies.
- Audiences in both Kenya and Rwanda value the content of Aegis Trust and Kibera News Network to such an extent that the media through which it is consumed is only a minor part of their experience (there is some sampling bias in this finding, the extent of this will reveal itself in the pilots).
- The contexts in which people use the technology and the inherent engagement patterns due to smartphone usage prohibit the gathering of lengthy, complex and/or extensive data via surveys.
- Face to face dialogue, post consumption of audiovisual materials, is a strong preference for users in both countries as it appears to facilitate the discussion of emotionally charged, sensitive, and relational topics with people in one’s immediate (co-located) community.