By Shefali Sinha, SolarSPELL Communications Intern SU23

SolarSPELL is an ever-growing organization which mobilizes the unique individual insights of approximately 100 students annually from ASU and other universities worldwide. They work together on software development, library curation, hardware construction, training enhancements and more, helping us change the world, one solar-powered digital library at a time. In this blog we dive into the journey of Paye Kialain, SolarSPELL’s Data Analysis Graduate Fellow, whose past experiences and passion for building technological literacy led to become an invaluable leader on our team.

Growing up with missionary parents, Paye became accustomed to relocations, although leaving behind his life each time was always challenging. Nevertheless, he supported his parents’ mission, deeply admiring their commitment to effecting change, even on a smaller scale. This admiration incited his thirst to make an impact on the world. Through his parents’ work, Paye saw firsthand the power of technology to unite communities and alleviate poverty. He took up the initiative to bring technology to rural areas, aiming to develop these locations and improve the quality of life for the people. After serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Liberia, where he taught middle school math and science, Paye came to ASU to pursue a graduate degree in Management of Technology.

SolarSPELL’s Data Analysis Graduate Fellow Paye Kialain (top row, center) poses with his middle school students during his Peace Corps service in Liberia.
Photo courtesy of Paye Kialain

“So since I was a kid I’ve always wanted to use technology in rural areas to bring people together and to just build their literacy in technology, and that’s kind of exactly what SolarSPELL does,” said Paye. He joined our team in his first semester, when he began volunteering his time to help curate localized resources for our Education Library. Since then he has been supporting our monitoring and evaluation efforts, particularly by lending his technical expertise to improve data analysis and process automation.

Effective monitoring, evaluation and learning (MEL) is crucial for our team to be able to measure our impact and determine how we can better serve our users. By surveying participants before and after train-the-trainer workshops, we can not only gather baseline data about the communities we serve, but also gather feedback to help us improve our trainings. And by conducting follow-up surveys and interviews with library users six months later, we can learn what impact the libraries have had and how they can be further developed. Paye has been helping us both refine these surveys and more effectively analyze the data they hold.

By writing code to automatically process quantitative data from our surveys, he has made our data analysis far more efficient. According to Paye, “The Management of Technology program is super broad, but since I’m concentrating on data science, doing data analytics for real world data and trying to improve real world initiatives, it’s like directly related to what I’m in school for right now.”

Paye Kialain trains senior education officials from the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES) how to collect data digitally using SolarSPELL surveys available on Kobo Toolbox.
Photo by Abby Johnson / SolarSPELL

Paye has taken on an important leadership role within SolarSPELL. When we hosted our partners from the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES) this spring, he led a training on the new offline, digital survey he helped create for them. This session was crucial to make sure they felt comfortable using this tool and to see what changes they recommended. Over the summer, Paye has been working with us full-time, leading data analysis interns and supporting software interns working on machine learning for our Agriculture Library.

Paye’s academic pursuits are directly correlated to his aspirations. His passion for technology and education has evolved into data analytics for real-world applications, inciting social change by enriching library information for people’s reference and learning. He aspires to continue creating positive change within the community and dedicating his work to global development, prioritizing social improvement over monetary gain.

According to Paye, SolarSPELL not only builds his professional skills but also fulfills his childhood dream of empowering rural areas with technological capacities: “I would say what I’ve been wanting to do from when I was a kid — building that capacity for rural communities — that has kind of been my focus since I’ve been with SolarSPELL.” Through relocations and firsthand perspective into rural areas’ economic struggles, Paye is unwavering in his commitment to a brighter future for all.

Paye trains AANES senior education officials to collect data via offline, digital surveys.
Photo by Abby Johnson / SolarSPELL
Paye poses with his middle school students during his Peace Corps service in Liberia.
Photo courtesy of Paye Kialain
Paye Kialain smiling for a headshot in front of Old Main on ASU's Tempe campus.
Paye Kialain poses for a headshot on ASU’s Tempe campus.
Photo by Abby Johnson / SolarSPELL