mambayya house officesI finally had an opportunity today to visit Mamabayya House (Center for Democratic Research and Training), aka Scott‘s home for then next few months.  This place is built around the residence of the late Mallam Aminu Kano.  Mambayya House is located on a great compound that has a library, museum, restaurant, and guest apartments.  It’s located just outside of one the gates to the old city so the surrounding area has quite a bit more character than over here in Nassarawa GRA.  This visit gave me another glimpse into to really inspiring things that are happening here in Kano.  First we learned a lot about the programs at CDRT.  Their focus thus far is heavily on training: they organizing workshops, lectures, leadership training on the topics of democracy, good governance and civic engagement.  They even managed to publish in book format the combined lectures and papers from all of the large seminars they host (including the annual Aminu Kano memorial colloquium held in April each year and Murtala Mohammed memorial).  This is a fantastic amount of inspiring material that is not yet available anywhere except the little bookshop outside of the auditorium (soon I hope to see these online).  The research projects they have worked on or are working on are:

  1. What is the impact of Islamic Scholars (called Ulema) on government, law and civil society? This project was funded by the Federal government of Nigeria. This to me seems very interesting given the small amount I’ve learned so far about the involvement of Ulema in supporting maternal and child health.

  2. How are political parties in Nigeria funded? This to seems like such an appropriate question to ask and equally surprising that nobody yet knows. Enlightenment around this issue I think is really key for people having faith in this electoral system. The most fascinating part however was comparing what groups are doing around electoral organizing in the US and Nigeria. Our conclusion from the conversation was that there are a lot of technical differences but a lot of similarities in values and goals towards systemic social change.

The last project of CDRT that we learned about was a beginning collaboration with Freedom Radio Nigeria that is meant to come up with effective ways to start a discourse about the needs of public.

Training Updates

In other news we’ve had several trainings since my last writing one on simple office networking that covered wireless networking and security, file and print sharing with Samba using an Ubuntu Linux server, and setting up mDNS/ZeroConf (Rendezvous, Bonjour, Avahi) to get cool domain names like “citad.local” instead of 192.168.1.103. We also introduced and played with installing Ubuntu Linux (which continued over into today). I went over installing but mostly everyone took to the live-cds and browsed around. There was an interesting discussion of languages and Scott and I spent sometime researching Hausa language software packages, which turned up next to nothing… except for the Ubuntu hosted software translations. I think there is potential here to develop some community around contributing Hausa language updates to at least these Ubuntu hosted projects.

At dRPC we now have the wireless network going which means they can now begin using their Google Apps hosted email and calendar (soon to be synced up with Thunderbird email clients for off-line access, including calendar). We spent some time installing ClamWin, Spybot and Firefox on computers in an effort to stave off the onslaught of viruses and spy-ware. Lastly we had a discussion and presentation on data management tools. Including this simple yet effective MS Excel as a database tool capable of quick analysis (via pivot charts), filtering (aka the lay persons querying) and easy generation of outputs (mail merge or reports).

I’m continuing tomorrow (Friday) with computer assembly, more data analysis in MS Excel, and WordPress (led by Scott) on Saturday. I’m also looking into how to register Nigeria domains for the groups that we’ll work with here and maybe it’s just me but I find the whole deal very confusing (though it is free).

Preparing for Departure

With only 5 days or so left I’m pretty excited to be returning home but also torn because there are so many projects here that I want to either start or somehow be involved in. Besides working with civil society and community-based groups I really want to see how I can participate in promoting alternative energies and improved telecommunications…. more on these later.