Archive for category Humanitarian
A firsthand account from the UCOSP Code sprint in Totonto on XX. by POSIT project team members :
UCOSP (Undergraduate Capstone Open Source Projects) gives students all across Canada the opportunity to work together and collaborate on joint open source projects. One of the great projects of UCOSP is POSIT, an android application from the Humanitarian FOSS project.
Since many of the students in UCOSP are from different regions of Canada, the wonderful steering committee of UCOSP organized a 3-day code sprint, held in Toronto, for students to meet face to face and familiarize themselves with the projects together. Members of the POSIT project, Gordon, Stanley, Ryan, Kalin, and Eric were all extremely excited to attend the code sprint; some even traveled from Vancouver and Edmonton to Toronto.
On the first day of code sprint, we devised a tentative plan for the next three days, based on our supervisor Professor Ralph Morelli’s agenda. Since working on POSIT was our first time working in an Android development environment, we decided to set up the Java Android environment and work through Google’s online tutorials to really understand the structure and workflow of an Android application. We have found that the Notepad Tutorial (http://developer.android.com/resources/tutorials/notepad/index.html) was particularly helpful because not only did it show us the standard Android framework, it also introduced the Java SQL database, which was essential in understanding the inner-working of the POSIT application.
One of the biggest challenges of working with team members all around Canada is effective team communication and efficient project coordination. We were thus grateful that, during the second day of the code sprint, our supervisor Ralph showed us many tools that we could utilize to easily collaborate and share with the team online. Such tools include online POSIT wiki and ticketing system where we can report and resolve issues encountered in using POSIT; and Mercurial for managing POSIT’s online code repository. With the help of Ralph, we also successfully deployed the demo POSIT application on our phone to test out its basic features.
Ralph also mentioned that he and POSIT’s past development team decided to overhaul POSIT’s overall framework to make it a more agile and configurable application. He introduced us the concept of “plug-in”, with one “plug-in” being its own separate application that has different user interface and supports one or more data types (texts, images, videos, etc). He also shared with us his vision on how users could simply configure the “plug-in” online and our code base would auto-magically generate a brand new version of POSIT with the specifications defined in “plug-in”.
We were all very excited with the idea of configurable application, but in order to get there, we needed to first understand the structure of the existing POSIT code base. On the last day of code sprint, Ralph pointed us to some fundamental POSIT framework and we each read through a part of the POSIT code base. Before we all left for our lovely home city, we had set up the date for our weekly Skype meeting so that we could update each other on our progress and coordinate project features.
Throughout the three days of code sprint, we all felt like we had accomplished a lot. We were so glad to meet each other face to face and were given the opportunity to work on such a great project. We really look forward to collaborating with each other and we cannot wait to see what our final POSIT application will be like.
In July a team of HFOSS faculty and students from Trinity College traveled to Haiti to deploy POSIT-Haiti, the Android application they developed for ACDI/VOCA, a humanitarian organization providing food and health services for expectant mothers and infant children in Haiti.
The app, which runs on Motorola XPRT smart phones, supports beneficiary registration and helps process monthly food distribution events for more than 10,000 beneficiaries in Haiti’s Southeastern Department.
A peak into localization by Chris N. who worked on the POSIT-Haiti code base:
Being able to display the app in multiple languages was essential for the project, due to the developers being native English speakers and the end users speaking French and Haitian Creole. I localized the mobile side of the app. There are hundreds of strings that appear in the display of the app, each of which needed to be internationalized and then localized. After the strings were translated and organized into xml files, they were then tested. A number of bugs appeared as a result of being able to change the language. Multiple strings needed to be abstracted out of the code. In addition, menu and dialog boxes needed to be reinitialized so that the newly changed language would display properly.
There was a great deal of difficulty keeping the character encoding consistent between Linux and Apple machines, which use different codes for special characters (such as the é character). This coding issue made it difficult to create non-conflicting translation patches that can work on both Linux and Macintosh computers. In addition, the patches often had to be tested for conflicts before being applied to the most recent repositories, due to the localization process’s nature of touching all the files in the app. It also became necessary to abstract the options end users select in data entry forms from the strings those forms store in the database, since otherwise the data queries would not be able to identify data submitted in one language and retrieved in another.
The localization process was difficult, but enjoyable. Users are able to toggle the display language between English, French, and Haitian Creole without exiting the app. Furthermore, the app is set up so that additional languages can be implemented quickly and easily.
Tomorrow, Monday, the 4th of July, we’ll be splitting into three teams and traveling to remote parts of the Southeast Department. But over the weekend we kicked back and headed to the beach.
The beach was nice and sandy. The water was warm. And we all had a swim. Emmet brought his guitars and song sheets and he and Tina sang some duets and got the rest of the beach singing along — including some of the locals.
At first the local musicians just watched and listened. But Emmet played a familiar local song and that was their cue to join in. They started playing along.
The first couple of nights at the hotel I was wondering what all the loud drumming and strange chanting was. I asked Meliu, our driver, about it. He said it was a Voodoo ceremony with around 1000 participants, including himself. I think he probably overestimated the attendance, but it sounded like a 1000 during the night.
The ceremony was being held in a vacant lot right next the the house neighboring the hotel compound. Emmet not only knew the owner of the house, but one of the Acdi/Voca staff members, Anna, lives in the house. Emmet was able to get us an invitation from the host — in his three years in Haiti Emmet had never been to a ceremony. We were warmly welcomed by the host and he rounded up chairs for us right up front. The ceremony was dedicated to the host’s father who was recently killed in a car accident. The goal of the ceremony was to cast away the spirits who had caused the family’s tragedy.
Training day! We all met up at a cute/sweltering hot meeting center a few miles away from the hotel. Over the course of the day we showed~40 auxiliary nurses how to use the app. They speak little to no English, but luckily we had some worldly coworkers along to help us: Sheena speaks Haitian Creole and Alex speaks French, both of which are common languages in Haiti. Eldivert, the tech guy from Acdivoca and mastermind of TBS, their current data storage system, helped to lead the training session.
Though many people in Haiti know how to use basic cell phones, most of the nurses had no experience using a touchscreen or a smart phone. We went through basic smart phone 101 (turning it on and off, using the touchscreen, menu/home/back buttons) and then moved into how to use the app (all the while standing as close to the AC unit as possible). After picking up the basic features of a smart phone, most of the nurses seem to catch on very quickly.
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Today we trained around 20 AcdiVoca staffers ranging from senior staffers to agronomists to data entry personnel to doctors. It was quite an experience. The morning session was done in English but the afternoon session was done in French and Creole. Alex and I shared the French explanations and Eldivert Savoit did most of the heavy lifting in Creole.
We were supposed to start at 10:00 AM, but we didn’t arrive at the headquarters until close to 8:30. That left us only an hour and a half to get the phones initialized and to test the system — clearly not enough time. (We thought we were going to do that yesterday afternoon or last evening.) Our challenge was compounded by the fact that the room we were presenting in had very poor cell phone reception. We worked furiously to get the phones set up. That entailed putting SIM cards in the phones, initializing the SIM cards, installing the application, making sure the app’s database was wiped clean.
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