It appears from the road that Bobo Dioulasso sits on a plateau atop a
ridge. Below the ridge is a flat plain, but with occasional
small hills of granite -- what Southern Africans might
call kopjes I think. Descending the ridge from Bobo, some 5
kilometers outside of town, is a turnoff to the village of Koro,
which sits atop one of these kopjes. Nestled among boulders and with
a magnificant view of the plain below, Koro is composed of perhaps 50
mud block houses of the traditional Bobo style. Our guide led us
through a light misty rain up a steep climb to the top, and told us
that the Bobo people had retreated to Kaso as a defense against an
invader from Guinea.
My colleague and I reached Koro around 5pm after a long day of
interviews beginning at 7am in Nyangoloko, Banfora, and Farako-Ba.
At the agricultural research stations in each of these places, we
asked scientists to diagram for us their "networks" of colleagues,
partners, and clients, to quantify the frequency of communications,
and to describe the technologies used, including the technology of
the human voice in a face-to-face meeting, which seemed generally to
be the most common.
It is still quite early in our schedule, and some preliminary
thoughts will need to be verified:
Senior researchers tend to "network" at a regional level more than
their junior staff, partly or perhaps primarily for funding
purposes. Much of the regional communications is administrative,
and tends to be between the researcher and the regional network
coordinator who is the primary network liaison to donors.
We have yet to meet a scientist with email on their office desktop,
but those who obtain email through a computer that is not on their
desktop say that they would be more likely to share scientific
information with their colleagues if they had email on their desktop.
For example, at one of the Farako-Ba stations just outside Bobo
Dioulasso, scientists place their email on a diskette and send it by
courier some 5 kilometers to the Cotton station. Replies are
returned on the diskette. The system is cumbersome -- ok for
occasional administrative messages, but unworkable for frequent
"conversations" among colleagues or participation in electronic
WARDA/AfricaLink is providing funds to establish a computer room at
the Farako-Ba station outside of Bobo. The plan is for scientists to
walk some 10 to 20 meters to this computer room, sit at a terminal,
and manage their own email directly, once or twice a day. Scientists
expect this significant improvement in access will enhance their
ability to enter into more regular discussions with colleagues.
Our intention is to revisit the station in a year to see what has
transpired. With a questionnaire we have diagrammed and
quantified the present networking of two scientists on site who we
think are quite typical. We should be able to compare numbers in
a year to document any progress.
We'll do the same at about 20 stations we expect to visit over two
weeks, and our intention is also to contract with local consultants
to implement our questionnaire in a number of other countries. One
of our tasks during the present exercise is to work on the
questionnaire itself to clarify problematic questions and make sure
the instructions to the enumerators are clear.
As I type my reports into the late evening hours, I am being watched
by two small bronze scuptures, one a traditional talking-drum
musician, the other a stylistic woman on her knees, stretching, head
bent backwards, eyes skyward. This afternoon, just before driving to
Kaso, we stopped to admire the central mosque. Two young men
escorted us inside and onto the roof, then took us through the Bobo
old town to the bronze artisan district where the artist himself
showed us his own special lost-wax techniques. He explained he was
preparing new pieces for a show next month in Paris.
Last night I was joined for dinner by a long-term listener to
Afrik-IT who presently works on a health project some 200 kms from
Bobo. He rode his mobylette into town just for our meeting so that
we could do a bit of networking of our own.
Bobo Dioulasso has been quite full of nice surprises. Tomorrow we
drive to Segou.
Jeff @ Bobo Dioulasso