Archive for category Information Technology

Day 1 Training at AcdiVoca Headquarters

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.

Training Acdi/Voca staff at Headquarters in Jacmel.

Training Acdi/Voca staff at Headquarters in Jacmel.

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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Trinity HFOSS Team Travels to Haiti

It was a long day but an HFOSS team is now in Haiti and preparing for end-user training tomorrow at AcdiVoca Headquarters in Jacmel.

The team includes current Trinity students Tina Lipson, ‘14, Alex Zhang, ‘14, Sheena Elveus, ‘12, and is led by recent alumna Rachel Foecking, ‘11, and HFOSS project leaders Trishan de Lanerolle, ‘04, and Ralph Morelli.

We left Hartford on a 6 AM flight (getting up at 3:30 AM or, in some cases, not going to bed at all the previous night).  We arrived, via a stopover in Miami, in Port au Prince at 11:30 AM.  It took about an hour to clear customs — they didn’t like it that a couple of us filled out our immigration forms in pencil –  and then another 4-1/2 hours to drive to Jacmel.  The traffic in Port au Prince was awful.  They are finally working on repairing the main road along the coast, which was damaged by the earthquake.  Here’s a shot from the drive.  Check out the little boy sitting on the dump truck.  After each shovelful his job was to jump down on the dirt and pick out the big rocks and throw them on the ground.

boyontruck

Road construction, Haiti style.

Emmet Murphy, Chief of Program for AcdiVoca-Haiti met us for dinner at our hotel, the Hotel Cyvadier, right on the beach (and on a nice surf spot).   It’s hot here, probably low 80s at 9 PM.  We had a nice dinner of lobster, conch and other seafood dishes.

Dinner at Cyvadier

Dinner at Cyvadier (L to R: Trishan, Sheena, Tina, Emmet, Alex, Rachel, Ralph)

We worked out a plan for tomorrow’s training sessions. Eldivert Savot and some of the other AcdiVoca team members joined us later.  Eldivert brought along the SIM cards he purchased and we loaded them in to a couple of phones and tried the app. Tomorrow the training sessions start at 10 PM.  Before that we’ll be loading the app on the phones and setting up the server.

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HFOSS builds mobile application for Haiti based Project

In March an HFOSS team traveled to Haiti to observe and collect requirements for a new mobile  application to be development by the HFOSS to support beneficiary registration and tracking for ACDI/VOCA to assist with a food aid distribution program for expectant mothers and infants in the eastern region of Haiti.

Presidential Palace after Earthquake in Port-a-Prince haiti

Presidential Palace after Earthquake in Port-a-Prince Haiti

ACDI/VOCA is a private, nonprofit organization that has been managing a USAID-funded Food for Peace program, the Multi Year Assistance Program (MYAP) in the Southeast Department of Haiti since 2008. It currently provides a food ration to over 10,000 registered beneficiaries and their families on a monthly basis.

On their visit the team observed the present system in operation and met with ACDI/VOCA’s Chief of Party, Commodity Manager, MIS manager and potential end users. The goal of the visit was to finalize use cases and requirements for the application and to conduct field tests of various aspects of the overall system using a proof-of-concept prototype that the team developed before heading to Haiti.

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Collabbit used by NYC Salvation Army to help serve 10,000 Thanksgiving dinners

On Thanksgiving day Eli and I were in New York city to observe the Salvation Army’s Thanksgiving Day Dinner program, feeding more than 10,000 New Yorkers across the boroughs, Long Island, and Westchester – up from 800 meals in 2008 and one of the largest Thanksgiving Dinners in the Division’s 129-year history. (http://standtogethernewyork.org/10000-new-yorkers-join-us-for-thanksgiving-day-meal )

The Salvation Army Emergency Disaster Services team coordinated the one-day event in a style similar to an emergency mass feeding. A work force of 500 volunteers and employees served food across the various sites. The Emergency disaster services team used an instance of Collabbit (http://collabbit.hfoss.org) to plan and track the event as it happened.

Zach posting an update at Harlam site

Zach posting an update at Harlem site

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Random Hacks of Kindness

rhokOn Friday November 13th Chris and I attended the first “Random Hacks of Kindness” (RHoK) codejam at the Hacker Dojo in Mountain View California, jointly organized by Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, Worldbank and NASA.

RHoK is an initiative that brings together disaster relief experts and software engineers to work on identifying key challenges to disaster relief, and developing solutions to these critical issues. This Codejam is the first of a series of RHoK events that will bring developers and domain experts together for a “give camp” to solve real world-problems related to Crisis/Disaster Relief.

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Disastwitter

After major “incidents” (such a neutral word for clearly negative events), local and national volunteer agencies group together to most effectively bring relief to the affected populations. The Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster, or VOAD, manages much of the relief effort.

With the close guidance of the New York City Office of Emergency Management, we have made a webapp, VirtualEOC, that provides a way for committees in the VOAD (like Housing or Information/IT) to share updates and files with each other.

As we prepare for a table-top disaster exercise in New York City, we’ve seen our web application grow from a greenfield to 2500 lines of PHP and scores of HTML templates. We went from a few mockups and a loose set of requirements to a real, functional application in just a couple of weeks. We have interviewed potential users, exchanged hundreds of emails, and plastered the whiteboard several times with database schemas. It’s still definitely pre-beta, but it’s already getting reviews like:

This site and all your work is really amazing.

and:

The site looks fantastic! Great work.

Even though the application is barely functional and has yet to be field tested, Connecticut, Westchester County, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Long Island, Toronto, and several other regions have expressed interest in the application along with several major NGOs including the Red Cross.

On Thursday, Sam, Dimitar and I are going down to New York City to observe them as they use the application. The simulation involves the cleanup effort after a hypothetical major hurricane in the NYC area in which 80,000 homes and 50,000 jobs are lost.

My biggest concern at this point is the NYC traffic.

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IBM in talks to buy Sun Microsystems

According to a Wall Street Journal Article this morning (March 18th 2009). The International Business Machine (IBM) are in talks to buy Sun. IBM is offering 6.5 billion according to the WSJ for the deal which is one of the largest bids by IBM for a rival. If this goes through this would put IBM in competition with the likes of HP and Cisco in the server markes and Oracle in the database space. IBM is a heavy backer of the Java platform which Sun owns; what does this mean for the other applications in Sun’s cart, including MySQL and OpenOffice applications. In this weak economy its not uncommon to see these consolidations. What impact will this have in the Open source space if two OSS giants become one?

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