Day 6, Embassy

Hot Tip: Don’t wear steel toed boots to the Embassy.  You’re gonna have to take them off to go through the metal detectors.  Yes, there are more than one.  And don’t take your laptop or your camera.  Both will be confiscated.

At the U.S. Embassy, we met up with representatives of USAID and gave a report of what we’re doing in Rwanda.  They seemed really excited about at least three things:

  1. iHRIS actually being put into the Ministry of Health and used.  We are actually implementing these tools and putting them into people’s hands.  They’ll have a place to collect information and analyze it.
  2. The Data-Based Decision-Making workshop IntraHealth is hosting. It is one thing to give people tools.  But if they’ve never used that sort of tool, they won’t understand the benefit it provides.  Unless someone shows them.  So IntraHealth is holding in-country workshops with the people at the Ministry and in the field who will be using the tools.
  3. Our focus on open source.  After a few encounters with software consultancies and vendors who provide solutions without source and require payment to foreign entities for ongoing support.

It is great when officials and administrators start talking to us about the benefits of open source.  They’ll mention another program that is government-funded and talk about how frustrating it is to have a system that they have to use being incomprehensible and expensive — because  that is just the way proprietary systems work. I hope that supporting native workers by bootstrapping their in-country IT (Information Technology) force with Open Source will undermine efforts like those described in Confessions of an Economic Hit Man.  The faster that Rwanda becomes self-sufficient, the less dependent they will be on foreign aid. And the desire for self-sufficiency is beginning to bloom.  While there is still a lot of dependency, people who make decisions and help provide direction are beginning to see that dependency on outside software firms is not the way to economic health.  As Rwanda focuses on IT (and the country is focusing on the industry as an area of growth), Open Source will provide the four freedoms of Free Software.  The government of any country (but especially developing countries) should be especially interested in the redistributive and communal benefits of Free Software and we are beginning to see it here.  When Rwanda has its own RMS, I’ll know we have succeeded. (NB: The mini-rms in me asks you to read “Free Software” where ever you see “Open Source” on my weblog. I am a Freetard, after all.  Unfortunately, the term “Open Source” is more widely understood.)

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