Electria suomeksi


SunEdu Interviews

Several of our students and staff traveled to Tanzania to conduct user research and oversee the piloting of the SunEdu electronic learning environment. In these interviews, we asked them to share their experiences, so we can learn a little something from their travels and travails.

SunEdu User Research

SunEdu User Research

Emma-Sofie Kukkonen, Project Manager

Emma-Sofie Kukkonen is the SunEdu Project Manager and a design student at Metropolia. She was in Tanzania for two weeks for the user research phase, and again for three months during the pilot project at the end of 2013.

Q. Tell us about what you learned, professionally.
A. When conducting a human-centered design project in a country that is both socially and economically different from your own, it’s really important to adapt your research methods to suit the local environment. This should be kept in mind especially when arranging co-creation workshops and such.

Q. Tell us about what you learned, personally.
A. I grew to be more patient since most things happen pole pole (slowly, slowly).

Q. What kind of culture shock did you experience?
A. I was familiar with the culture when I moved to Iringa for three months, but when there’s a lot of injustice happening right in front of you, it’s hard to just close your eyes.

Q. What advice can you offer to people doing similar projects in Tanzania?
A. Include locals in your project from the very beginning and learn from them; that’s how you reach the audience you’re targeting. Don’t expect similar services and products that work in Finland or elsewhere in Europe to be relevant to people in Tanzania. Give up your prejudices and be curious instead.

Q. What kind of impact do you think SunEdu has had?
A. I hope our pilot has been as interesting an experience for the participant families as it has been for us. We learned a lot. Sad to say, but this was the first time the participant children had school books to study. I hope the project gave students more motivation to study. The pilot also had an impact on our partner companies; they received valuable feedback on their products in the Tanzanian context and can now decide if their product is right for that audience.

SunEdu Research Visit

User research in Iringa, Tanzania

Charles Wasswa, Technical Support Engineer

Charles Wasswa was in Tanzania for 13 weeks as the Technical Support Engineer for the pilot. When technical problems occurred, he was able to repair equipment and create solutions with few tools and no replacement parts. He shared his technical, professional, and personal perspectives on the experience with us.

Q. Tell us about what you learned, professionally.
A. It’s important to have a deep understanding of the system being piloted; there are usually surprises and the solution requires that understanding. Risk analysis is also important, so possible failures can be identified and mitigated. Requirements engineering is critical in order to address the needs of the customer– that is to say, you must understand first the customer needs so that the system under development can meet those needs.

Q. Tell us about what you learned, personally.
A. I learned never to judge people before I get to know them. When I was told about remote Tanzania, I had certain preconceptions that were far different from what I found there. It’s good to know and appreciate other cultures; they are usually a lot of fun. Also, just because someone doesn’t understand English does not mean they’re illiterate and primitive.

Q. What kind of culture shock did you experience?
A. I did not experience any culture shock; I’m from Uganda, and I found the culture similar to ours. This made me to appreciate our cultures and norms more.

Q. What advice can you offer to people doing similar projects in Tanzania?
A. They should first understand the environment and the customer for whom they’re developing the system. Rural Finland is far different from rural Tanzania. A technical support engineer should have multiple skills. Some situations may require you to think outside the book and improvise using local solutions.

Q. What kind of impact do you think SunEdu has had?`
A. The impact was positive; exposing rural students to modern technology is already a plus. It was reported that, during the pilot, students could spare an hour or two to read through their books, which was something that had never happened before. This technology improved students’ reading culture.

SunEdu research trip photo

Tanzanian School Building

Thomas Wahl, Designer

We also heard from Thomas Wahl, a designer for SunEdu. He was in Tanzania for two and a half weeks at the end of 2013. He took part in planning the interviews and pilot, built the prototype eReaders, and interviewed participant parents.

Q. Tell us about what you learned, professionally.
A. Durability should never be compromised when building prototypes. We also learned that interviews should be formulated in such a way that participants can relate to the questions and reflect on their experiences.

Q. Tell us about what you learned, personally.
A. Tanzania is a great country. I would never have thought I would enjoy my time there so much. I learned a lot about the laid back, stress free lifestyle, which has helped me control my own stress.

Q. What kind of culture shock did you experience?
A. The first culture shock was the temperature. We left Finland during a blizzard and landed in Dar es Salaam at three in the morning, into humid 26° C air. It was quite surprising. Other than that, the culture shocks were mainly about the state of infrastructure and the very visible line separating wellbeing and poverty. I also got electrocuted in the shower.

Q. What advice can you offer to people doing similar projects in Tanzania?
A. Things are perceived very differently in Tanzania. When we were doing the interviews, we had to adapt to the local perspective and put aside our usual approach. Also, dress for hot weather, wear a hat, and keep water with you at all times!

Q. What kind of impact do you think SunEdu has had?
A. I hope this project has taken steps toward bringing quality education to off-grid areas in Africa.

SunEdu User research

SunEdu User research

Yang Zhou, User Experience Researcher & Service Designer

Yang Zhou is a user experience researcher and service designer for the SunEdu project. He was in Tanzania for 2 weeks during the initial user research period.

Q. Tell us about what you learned, professionally.
A. One thing I learned is that participant observation is very important when doing in-depth interviews in a very different culture and living conditions. Sometimes the respondent would try to give an answer that they think the interviewer wants to hear or is afraid to say something wrong because of a big difference in understanding. Participant observation could eliminate such strangeness so we could obtain information about the experience in the respondent’s context.

Q. Tell us about what you learned, personally.
A. Do not use ice cubes in your drink!

Q. What kind of culture shock did you experience?
A. The local attitude about time is very different.

Q. What advice can you offer to people doing similar projects in Tanzania?
A. Have a clear understanding of the difference between ‘user’ and ‘customer.’ Dive into the local context. Try to engage government and get their support.

Q. What kind of impact do you think SunEdu has had?
A. I think SunEdu has discovered and tested a possible solution for those people who live in a low income, off-grid environments and who lack study materials. It also shows the great potential of Finnish renewable energy and technology.