The word “taxi” used to mean something different to me. Before living in Uganda, I’d probably have imagined a yellow cab, the classic Crown Vic, hustling through the gridlocked streets of Manhattan. Now I picture a lot the size of a football field packed with white minibuses, travelers, hawkers, sundry cargo and, of course, livestock. I used to dread Kampala’s taxi parks. They epitomize the functional chaos upon which so much in Uganda operates. They are a microcosm for this already small, but endlessly diverse country. At the taxi park in Kampala there is a continuous flow of people from every part of the country, even the most remote villages; a natural sample of Uganda’s cultures, languages and locations available in the space of two city blocks. And that is exactly what makes it a fantastic place to conduct research.
A couple months back PVI purchased a small stock of tablet computers, headphones and dice. Armed accordingly, we sent a team of enumerators to the taxi park. Approaching the taxi the enumerator rolls a four-sided die. She records the number in an offline version of the data collection software Qualtrics. To the passengers awaiting departure, she announces her intent and finds a volunteer. She shows this passenger turned respondent the video selected randomly by the die and then perform a short interview. Two days later the respondent receives a phone call wherein he is asked many of the same questions as in the taxi park interview.
The birth of Media Innovation Laboratory
Thus the Media Innovation Laboratory performed its first field experiment, a study examining the effectiveness of PVI’s public service announcement about Ebola. We intend to present the results of the study at conferences and eventually publish in an academic journal. Data collection was completed in May and since then we have returned to the taxi park, now using it to conduct low-cost public opinion polling. Findings from our recent survey on media preference are already being disseminated through our first white paper. Several more studies are in the works.