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Truth in action

January 21, 2011

In project work two things are essential: effective communication and a good accounting system.

I learned that when I worked in Tanzania many years ago. Both have to do with information – or even with truth, to use a bigger word. The most precise concept is probably truth-in-action.

Project work requires coordinated action – which is impossible without frank and frequent communication. Accounts reveal the stock and flow of resources. Without workable – which means true – accounts, meaningful coordination of resources is impossible.

In a world where everybody is busy most of the time, ease of communication is crucial. I was reminded of this last week, when we started to experiment with Skype – in order to conduct real time discussions between Kampala, Oslo and Bergen.

To show this concretely, I quote from a letter I wrote to the project group a few days ago

As you know, we are now trying to establish more stable communication links between Kampala, on the one hand, and Oslo/Bergen, on the other. E-mail works well, of course. The problem is real time discussion.

So far, Fred and Aslak have tested this out. They have tried out chat – which works, and have also had a Skype-to-Skype talk with video. But we know that web access at Makerere is rather unstable, so we cannot depend on that alone.

I should add that Skype is not completely stable in Norway either – when I talk with my son in London, we sometimes lose connection – probably because of traffic overload.

We should therefore try out more possibilities. One of them is talking by Skype from Norway – to mobile phones in Uganda. The cost of that is much lower than direct phone-to-phone connections – about 400 Ugandan shs (or 1 NOK) pr. minute.

To test this out, I had a brief talk with Fred yesterday – and I’ve asked Aslak to continue testing with Fred and others in the production team. So don’t be too surprised if you get a phone call from Norway – it’s probably Aslak or Tord at the other end.

Since then I’ve also had Skype-to-phone talks with Agnes and Irene. They work very well – which helps a lot.

Early bird

Irene also tells me that Internet at Makerere is most stable between 8 and 10 AM. So our best chance for Skype-to-Skype talks are in the morning:

  • 8-10 AM Kampala time
  • 6-8 AM Oslo time

In Oslo, I am not sure people will be happy about meetings at 6 or 7 in the morning (!). The early bird catches the worm – but not its beauty sleep.

But people also have Skype at home. Personally, I have no problem with starting at 7 AM – as long as I can use my home office … We’ll explore this.


Let me also add that the Oslo University College news site now includes a direct link to the The changing role of librarians – see the left-hand column on this page.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. gra77 permalink
    January 26, 2011 3:32 pm

    It is not enough to depend on possible communication systems (skype, email, chat, etc.) that we do have. Visits and check ups or check ons can really help in running the project. Where frankness is a problem, encouragement not to beat about the bush is required too. Probably people do not know what is expected of them, probably they need to be shown what to do. Good that you keep checking and post your views. Hopefully the response will be great since the challenges have been addressed; being frank and practical, no dreaming

  2. plinius permalink
    March 2, 2011 5:26 pm

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