I am in Lagos, Nigeria this morning, preparing for a half-day car ride to Akure in Ondo State. I'll be spending the next seven days with programmers from Ondo state, who are six months or so away from deploying a system to provide government-provided services using a centralized card system. They are designing their database using PostgreSQL!
Ondo state has a little over 3 million people, and plans to integrate a half-dozen government services under the centralized data system. They conducted a census in 2006, and will be using their new system to gather data yearly going forward.
Their plan is extremely ambitious, given obstacles like lack of power in most of the rural areas, and social issues like people not wanting to give accurate information about themselves to the government. Some biometric information, like finger prints, will be gathered electronically using special machines that they will primarily lease (instead of buying - significant cost savings), and these machines require power. They have been specially outfitted with dry-cell batteries, that operate for about 8 hours before needing to be recharged.
For the social problems around data collection, a marketing campaign to explain exactly what benefits those who provide accurate information are entitled to. After I mentioned to my host the American aversion to centralized government identification cards, he explained that in Nigeria they had the same issue. In addition to the marketing on TV, radio, newspapers and even leaflets, data collection volunteers will be trained on exactly how to collect accurate information. I am looking forward to having a look at the surveys and data collection strategy.
Otherwise, I've had a lot of fun talking with people. My car trip from the airport and remaining evening was mostly spent with me making funny vocabulary errors (tshirt == vest - who knew?), and explaining that Americans were mourning and in shock just like Nigerians because of Michael Jackson's death. I made an offhand comment about the number of people walking around outside at dusk because a friend had said a similar thing about Portland, OR's nightlife, and my escort commented on how peaceful and free people are in Lagos.