Friday, March 11, 2011

High Five

 It’s been a very rewarding couple of days for our team, and hopefully we’ve even got room to improve from here. Before the reveal, maybe it’s worth giving a little bit of insight into what our daily schedule has been like over the last few weeks that we’ve been researching and drafting our report. We’ve typically been getting up around 6 or 7 AM, joining together for breakfast at 8 AM, starting work at 9 AM, working until 1, breaking for an hour for lunch, resuming at 2 PM until it’s time for dinner at 7 PM, dining for an hour, then heading to the bar, laptops in hand, to work from about 8 PM until midnight or later, then going to bed for a few hours until we get up and do it all over again. Our team recognized early on that we had a massive body of research to tackle and a lot of report drafting to do, and we grabbed on with both hands from day one.
That hard work got put to the test on Tuesday as we gave our government sponsor a preview via phone conference of the draft report that we intended to present to her extended staff the next day. Although all of us were quite confident in the quality of our work, I think the shared fear was that we were not going to tell Dr. Katherine Getao anything that the head of the e-Government wouldn’t already know, and that she would look at us and say, “Right. So?”
Far from the case, she was attentive and inquisitive from the first substantive slide. One of my teammates believes she counted 20 “Fantastic”s over the course of the call. She gave us a couple of additional areas for investigation, followed up to clarify a few points that were new news to her, and expressed her excitement to see the final report. Though it was very gratifying to hear it, we soon shuffled off to bed, as we had another 5:30 sortie to Nairobi the next morning to present our preliminary report to the CIOs of Kenya’s 42 government ministries. Since I have already had a chance to present on numerous occasions, I left this one to my teammates, which meant I got to sleep the whole car ride. We arrived at the conference center at the Kenya Institute of Education, and heard Katherine give a heartfelt, humorous and very ambitious presentation on the e-Government strategy for the next year. Her staff reviewed some of the subtopics in the strategy, and then it was our turn. Anna had created a visually stunning presentation, and Nimeesh and Luan both did a great job sharing it with the assembled ICT officers. The questions came fast and furious, substantive and on point, and I used my perch in the center of the seating area to clarify our key principles and outline the opportunities that Kenya has to “leapfrog” a number of stages of technological development, and learn enough from the world’s experience with e-Government to “cheat” and start on the last page of the book, as it were. The reception to our points was very warm with both Dr. Getao and her staff immediately integrating some of our points into their responses to crowd questions. At lunch, I was able to sit with Katherine, together with one of the architects of the Kenya Vision 2030 plan and a gentleman from the Ministry of Information and Communication who has been instrumental in drafting and passing many of Kenya’s laws pre- and post-constitution. I will admit to a thrill when during the somewhat heated lunch discussion regarding whether these principles were better promulgated as new legislative authority or simple regulatory edicts, and what position they would occupy vis a vis some of the laws already in process, Dr. Getao at one point said “Yes, but are you listening to what IBM is telling us???”
The conference was a bit eye-opening hearing that the status of some of the projects that our legislative proposals will legitimize was more rudimentary that we had hoped, and we will need to adjust some of our included timelines accordingly. And we did get ambushed by some laws in draft form that no one had bothered to circulate to anyone in e-Government but that will directly affect our outputs, but by Thursday morning we had already tamped those down and were working them into our final report. Overall, it was extraordinarily gratifying to have many hours of hard work pay off with an eager and engaged reception and a very satisfied client. The next few days we’ll spend ensuring that the final full-length report if of similar quality and contains the few tweaks that Dr. Getao requested.
We celebrated this milestone with some boisterous alcohol-fueled card games, neither of whose names are of a quality to be published in this blog, in the bar with the extended team. This weekend, most of the team will head to Lake Nakuru, while I hitch a matatu ride to Nairobi for one more crack at the Nairobi Hebrew Congregation, a long-awaited meet up with my dear college friend Ellen who works in the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, and some frantic souvenir shopping for what seems like an endless list of deserving recipients. One week from now, we’ll have finished our final client presentation and I’ll be on a plane to Kinshasa… how the time has flown.

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