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Exploring church technologies in Tanzania

07 Feb 2014

One of the et.lakes activities is a joint research project between computer science and theology departments of the UEF. The European Social Fund and Finnish Evangelical-Lutheran Church fund the two-year long “Congregational Mobile Technologies” project. The project studies and develops mobile services to enhance communication between church organizations and their members and to empower people to take actively part in church activities, just to name few aims.

One very important aim of the project is to open doors for the R&D work of church technologies also internationally. Obviously, sub-Saharan Africa provides very fruitful ground for these activities. Role of religion in everyday life and ways to practice religion are radically different than in Finland. No doubts, the needs for the mobile services might be very different. Also, technical infrastructure and penetration of smart phones are not comparable to those figures in Finland, and these are the factors that need to be taken into account when planning activities around (smart) mobile services in Africa.

These were the grounds where I volunteered myself to go to Tanzania to explore possibilities for collaboration for our project. As it turned out, et.lakes’ presence in Tanzania was very strong through our four-member delegation. Beside me, also Jarkko, Calkin and Erkki took the part for this exercise. Jarkko and Calkin were running an IMPDET-LE preparatory workshop for the new edTech PhD students at the College of Business Education, whereas I was busy with the church technologies. Erkki was moving around between different topics, including his personal assignment for an evaluation project for Swedish SIDA. As usual, Erkki’s field trips generated cha… lots of new contacts and possibilities for networking. To initiate church technology activities in Tanzania, we organize a mini-workshop at the CBE. The participants were Gerson Mgaya (who will defense his PhD thesis in mid-March at the School of Theology of the UEF), Zuena Mgova (a BSc graduate from Iringa University; she has also been in Finland in student exchange and has worked with Carolina), and Stanely Kambo, a BSc of Computer Science from St. Joseph University.

Screenshot of Chemsha Bongo game

Together, we explored the needs and possibilities for mobile services in Tanzanian church life. Furthermore, we took a change to partially contextualize a game developed in Finland. The game, Chemsha Bongo, is based on the game developed in Finland for learning the Christian prayers and similar in Finnish confirmation work. At this stage, the textual content of the game was translated to Swahili. Even this kind of straightforward method gave very nice results and people enjoyed very much to play the game. I believe that with little effort, this game would be contextualized to suit perfectly to Tanzanian religious landscape. We have also made ourselves known to various potential collaborators in Tanzania, including people from Finnish Embassy and TANZICT, as well as FELM and Tanganyika Christian Refugee Service. And more to come…

Oh, one more thing. The weather in Tanzania was very nice; one could say that it was even hot. Temperature being around +35 Celsius, it was very nice to dip in the swimming pool at the back yard of our hotel. Occasionally the water felt even too warm for swimming, but after consideration, it was just in the acceptable limits… ;)

Screenshot of a virtual swimming-pool in Tanzania

Ilkka Jormanainen

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