From hikes up to lava lakes in the Congo to data collection at insurance companies, my internship this summer in Rwanda has provided me with a wide range of experiences. And while my work in managing the data collection process this summer may not have been quite as exciting as the volcanoes and game parks that I visited, it did give me invaluable experience by allowing me to apply a lot of the research skills I have learned at Georgetown and to see firsthand how field research is conducted.

Photo of Jimmy Graham deciding on new sticker designs with the guide teamMy job this summer has been to help manage the process of collecting data for the baseline of the study gui2de is doing in Rwanda, which is more or less a replication of Kenya’s Zusha experiment. Unlike in Kenya, however, data collection has proven to be a bit trickier. Instead of being able to collect all of the necessary data on accidents from one insurance company, we need to gather it from six. It has also not been sufficient to just use the electronic data they have available. Instead, we have needed to hire enumerators to collect data using tablets from the thousands of physical claim forms at these various companies. I have gotten the chance to design a survey using a program called Survey CTO, train the enumerators, supervise the data collection process, validate the quality of data we gather, and merge and clean all the data we gather.

This process gave me the chance to put to good use the Stata and Excel skills I’ve been building in school and also to see how research data is actually gathered. I quickly learned that the process of data collection is not as smooth as one would think. At times, progress could become quite stalled, when our contacts at insurance companies were being less than cooperative. A lot of the work involved meeting with stakeholders, and then meeting with them again. In order to get the data, you really need to build relationships with key people.

Jimmy Graham visiting Lake Muhaze in Rwanda

Aside from data collection, I’ve also helped a bit with the methodology, where we try to figure out how implementation will work in a practical sense. There are a lot of puzzles to work through, like determining how to find all the buses to put stickers on them, what will be the most cost-effective way to get a random sample of bus drivers to interview (there is a qualitative aspect of the study that involves surveys), and if we can record bus passengers’ reactions to the stickers without asking permission (and thus biasing results).

And there has been plenty of time to travel when not at work. Rwanda is a beautiful country packed with things to see: mountains and volcanoes in the North, game parks and safaris in the East, monkey-filled jungles in the South, and gorgeous lakes all over. I think the pictures say it all.