Bringing Peace Corps into the 21st Century: RealTrack App

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Sometimes I’m too humble to admit my own accomplishments, no matter how big or small they may be. Most times, they don’t really feel like my own accomplishments at all, but rather a collective effort of incredible, passionate individuals who are inspired to make change happen. Yeah, it’s mostly that one.

A good friend of mine has been getting on me lately telling me this: “Jules, if you don’t tell other people about these amazing things that you’re doing in your life then that’s exactly it, no one will know about these amazing things you are doing. So get out there and tell them. So many people would be interested in knowing the things you’re doing.”

So, okay okay. Let me start telling you some of the things that I’ve done in the last six months of my service, starting with my most recent accomplishment: RealTrack App – Mobile VRF Reporting.

Back in May 2013 I drafted a proposal for Hacks of Change to write an app, RealTrack, to aid PCVs in tracking the reporting data of our service outreach. Essentially, I wanted to increase the accuracy of our monitoring and evaluation techniques to better refine our programs and the help we offer our communities.

After I created the video below, a few people I’d never met before, including Patrick Choquette, went and championed my idea at 3 separate Hack-a-thon challenges throughout the States, including Nashville, Boston, and Atlanta. I remember when Dave, my Nashville advocate, Skyped me into the hack-a-thon with several program developers milling around the room. Next, Patrick, the Director of Innovation at Peace Corps headquarters in D.C. called me late one night from the Atlanta hack-a-thon to help answer questions for potential App developers. I’ll never forget that it was into the late hours of the morning, 2 or 3 am, and he took me on a tour around the almost-vacant hotel reception rooms, save for the dedicated hackers tilling away at solving problems. There was so much energy and passion there, everyone working (for free, mind you) to contribute to a better cause, create technological solutions to real world problems. Amazing. Inspiring.

Anyway, I had an optimistic conversation with Patrick and we both agreed wholeheartedly that it was time to bring the Peace Corps into the 21st Century. Even some remote villages worldwide were seeing a surge of technology, from computers, to laptops, to the iPhone craze, which I can assure you is not just an American thing, and Asia might be contributing to half the market on Apple sales these days. 13-year olds have iPhones; it’s crazy!

Months went by, creating the App and working with the developer became an investment on Patrick’s part and Raj, the pro bono developer. I didn’t have access to an Android on a regular basis so I was unable to help with more than one or two revisions of the App, but I made myself available to answer questions and help flesh out the idea, problem and proposed solution.

Today, a very exciting day has finally come. After some advocacy from Patrick Choquette, a program developer named Raj, and a very generous donation from the National Peace Corps Association, our newest PC Thailand group were given Nexus tablets to pilot these apps. It’s real! It actually happened.

I’m beyond thrilled to contribute to advancing technology in the field and bringing Peace Corps into the 21st Century. More importantly, I’m proud of myself. I did something! I really did it. Actually, I have done a lot of somethings. So stick around, and let me tell you some more of the wonderful things I’ve been a part of. I’m still learning details of this coming about, so I’ll keep everyone posted on the developing story. For anyone reading this who contributed, thank you thank you thank you.

Here it is!

Photo by Jonathan Hilbrands

The new Nexus tablets given to Group 126 Trainees, generously funded by the National Peace Corps Association. Photo by Jonathan Hilbrands

2 responses to “Bringing Peace Corps into the 21st Century: RealTrack App

  1. Love, love, love, love, love!!! You have every reason to feel proud, woman! So stoked this has become a reality, and I’m so glad you shared it🙂

  2. Hey Julia, I am Zach. I am a new trainee in Nicaragua right now and have been using the tablet for many thing including the training readings and other things like skyping when I can get to a place with wifi. I love the connectivity and data useage but I have noticed that there is only something for actual PCVs by way of tracking M&E with the app but there is not anything of use for trainees. Just shooting some ideas out there, maybe something for language training like flashcards or another interactive language app; something for VRF reporting; linking to other PCV blogs around the world separated by country; links appropriate govt info separated by country and sector (eg. Nicaragua- Govt Health Links – HIV/AIDS, Teen Pregnancy, Epidemiology). I havent though too much about this just saw your post and it got me thinking. Email me if you want to explore this idea.

    Thanks again and great work! Spread the word!

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