Archive for Kenya

SIPA Summer Internships Abroad

One of the greatest things about SIPA is the opportunity to do a summer internship abroad. And with abroad, I mean almost any corner in the planet. From Bhutan to Brazil or Cambodia to Bolivia, hundreds of SIPA students say goodbye to New York City every May to embark on fascinating adventures.

This past summer I decided to go to Kenya. Before coming to SIPA, I worked for four years in development projects at the Organization of American States, but my experience was centered in Latin America and the Caribbean. The idea of living and working in East Africa has always been appealing to me; my summer internship was a great way to get a taste of what this amazing region has to offer.

My internship, like most students in the MPA in Development Practice program, was with an Earth Institute project. A fellow student and I worked with Millennium Cities Initiatives, a project that provides technical assistance to over 10 cities across Africa to advance urban development.

We were based in Kisumu, a warm and relatively small city in Western Kenya, on the shores of the mystic Lake Victoria. Our mission was to support the District Health Office in identifying all health providers in the District, and carry out a survey to find out more about their infrastructure conditions and the services they provide. In a city where only a handful of streets have a name, we also carried out a geo-mapping of all clinics, hospitals and dispensaries, plotting them in a Google Map that will hopefully help local authorities to better manage health delivery.

Driving around Kisumu slums in a motorbike in search of clinics constantly reminded me of the importance of doing field work to give sense to what we study at SIPA. The challenges governments face to provide quality services and the many obstacles low-income people confront to access them are some of the most present discussions we have in class. Every summer, SIPA students have the opportunity to see these problems first hand, greatly enriching our understanding of the complexities behind development.

Blog post submitted by Mariana Costa.  Mariana is a second year student in the MPA in Development Practice program at SIPA. 

Crowd Sourcing of Crisis Information

A group of SIPA students was recently featured on Al Jazeera’s Web site.  The story (text and video) shows how technology developed in Kenya is making it possible to have an impact during crisis situations, even if those interested in assisting are thousands of miles away.  The text below is taken from the Al Jazeera Web site.

University students have always been known for their activism, but I just met a group at Columbia University’s School of Public Affairs (SIPA) who are using technology to take it to a new level.

They are volunteers who have been holed up in the basement of the school’s library, despite their exams, ever since an earthquake struck Chile.

They work in shifts from a tiny room without windows, amid half-eaten snacks and potato-chip wrappers, but they are able to have a direct impact on how aid is delivered to the people in Chile – thanks to an amazing new tool available right on their laptops.

They are using an open source – meaning anyone can use it – computer program called Ushahidi. Ushahidi allows them to take information provided by text messages, email, and twitter and create a “crisis map” of where help is needed.

Al Jazeera’s Kristen Saloomey reports from Columbia University in New York city where the technology is being applied.

"The most global public policy school, where an international community of students and faculty address world challenges."

—Merit E. Janow, Dean, SIPA, Professor of Practice, International and Economic Law and International Affairs

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