19 March 2009

Technical Problems, and Snow

At some point the rain last night turned to snow, and we woke up to a very lovely, very white Bishkek. We watched snow fall and worked through the morning, meeting with one of the local researchers, dealing with translations of human subjects documents, scheduling for the three studies, and waiting for Aidai's arrival from Israel.

Documents sent off, Aidai arrives, we lunch at a Turkish place across from the mosque down the street. The city is surely beautiful in the snow, but my feet are wet and cold. Last week it was in the 60s. 

Erica, Chad and I go off to a meeting at a local NGO that tracks media and technology issues, and Odina, Cynthia, and Aidai go off to the American University of Central Asia to meet with two students who are helping us out. Their goal is to plan recruitment strategies for the three studies, and make some headway on assembling teams for different tasks. Cynthia brings along the database of survey results to help resolve sampling issues. Waylon continues to work on debugging the *boxes which still aren't working. 

Meanwhile, our meeting at Internews is helpful in identifying other folks for us to talk to (my main goal in the visit), and we get some good feedback on the *bus project. The usefulness of the system for riders is apparent, but the question of the benefit to drivers is more questionable. We talk about the structure of the marshrutka system, and the interplay of municipal authorities with the private companies that run routes, and the drivers who follow the routes. The routes are related to the bus routes established by the city, but since there aren't enough buses to run the routes, the marshrutkas fill the ridership gap by providing much of the actual transport. 

There are city buses on the street, but they are few in number and rider demand vastly outweighs what the city buses can provide. We are told tens or dozens of companies operate the routes, and that licensing authority comes from the mayor's office and/or the Ministry of Transportation and Communication. We have been cautioned that it might be difficult to find people with whom we can talk about the general structure of the system. We've gotten a few different versions of how the different stakeholders are related, but more details emerge from various conversations.

Waylon is dealing with more hardware problems than anticipated. The sim cards will work on the debug board, but not when in the *boxes. He left one of the boxes running over lunch, and only about 27 of the 35 sent messages went through. This is much lower reliability than we had in the states. There's also the issue of the boxes just stopping working at odd intervals. He's been playing with the debugging, I learned the word for screwdriver as we borrowed tools from the hotel for him to take apart one of the boards, and right now he's focusing on the possibility of different antenna strength between the debug board and the boxes. Also, there's the possibility that the sim cards are working on a different band which is producing a different power draw than when we were in the states. Reworking the power source for the boxes is not an ideal scenario. We are currently thinking about where in Bishkek one goes to purchase capacitors. 

We sent off the translations of consent documents to UW, and we are waiting on that approval before beginning any interviews. Since I don't have access to a scanner for the signed cover sheet, I printed neatly on the form and took a photo of it. Cynthia reduced the size for email friendly -- especially since our email access here is metered by MB rather than time. Eleven documents and the cover sheet took several minutes to be happily sent. 

Late afternoon, back at the hotel, hammering through the research protocols, sampling, recruitment strategies, etc. We're considering different neighborhoods to conduct interviews with riders as well as interviews for the Internet study. The map of Bishkek is coming in very handy. We are tired. Jet lag catches us up. Dinner at a semi-Uzbek restaurant. Now back at the hotel. I'm staring at my email, wondering if I'll hear back from UW IRB before I fall into sleep. If I miss the chance to respond during this workday in Seattle, then we're set back 24 hours. 

Ruth, Anthony, and Rebecca arrive tonight at 3 am. I'm leaving them notes about tomorrow's schedule, big bottles of water, and some snacks. 


mark said...

I like how you're blogging all of this. It's a fascinating window into your life and project's life. :)

g said...

Waylon: don't waste too much time with battery capacitor issues. Is there a way to rig up something where you can run off the bus's battery - through a USB adapter - (consider even buying a big battery and sticking it next to the starbox)? Is the issue current sourcing or voltage levels?

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Technical problems really ruin all your work in progress. One really gets disturbed out of it.

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