eResearch Report 2017 - 2018 - Page 31

Supporting the research endeavour
“Across Africa, rural villages
sometimes just run out of
money,” says Ruddick. “So the
villagers find themselves in a
situation where they have goods
and services to trade, but no
medium of exchange.”
To address this, the NGO Grassroots
Economics, founded by Ruddick
in 2012, developed a paper
voucher system that functions as
a complementary or alternative
currency. These vouchers are
security-printed in the same way
a national currency is, and can be
exchanged for goods and services
within a specific community
network. The system enables those
who have no money to enter the
local economy, and also allows
business owners to save the national
currency for business upgrades or
other strategic expenses.
This alternative currency has been
implemented in six locations in
Kenya and in two in South Africa.
In 2016 Ruddick decided to
undertake a PhD to study this
alternative currency system. Using
economic survey data, he seeks
to better understand how these
vouchers are used and what
impact they have on the social
and economic welfare of those
using them. Using the data, he
also plans to develop a model
to simulate, understand and
predict the effects of community
currencies over time, within a
range of demographics.
To do this, Ruddick has been
using the open-source software
Open Data Kit, designed
to collect, manage and use
data in resource-constrained
environments by means of
mobile phones.
“Open Data Kit has a really
cool Excel interface for creating
surveys; it also allows you to
input additional data on top of
it, such as GPS data, or images
from your mobile phone. Then
you just click ‘send’ and it
uploads to the server.”
The trouble, however, lay in
storing the data. Previously,
Ruddick used a commercial
cloud service for data storage,
but this became quite
expensive, as he had to pay
for even the smallest amounts
of data. UCT eResearch set up
a server to store the data at
UCT, and because his needs
are so small, this comes at no
additional cost.
“eResearch is a service with
a purpose, and that purpose
is to support and accelerate
research at UCT,” says Dr
Dale Peters, UCT eResearch
director. “It doesn’t matter who
is conducting the research
or how big it is. For some
research projects, such as this
one, a simple server can make
all the difference.”

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