ICT4D for MEAL week: Guy Sharrock on Transforming the Way we Work

Hi, my name is Guy Sharrock. I work in a small team of advisors working for Catholic Relief Services (CRS) responsible for improving the quality of the agency’s Monitoring, Evaluation, Accountability and Learning (MEAL) activities. CRS is working to improve the lives of individuals in over 90 countries. CRS views the rapid expansion of cellular technology as hugely transformative for even the most vulnerable communities: in 2013, the rate of mobile-cellular penetration in developing countries stands at 89 per cent. For the last five years a cross-departmental Community of Practice (CoP) has sought to understand and promote the use of Information and Communication Technology for Development (ICT4D), inter alia, to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the agency’s MEAL operations.

The theme of this week is ICT4D for better MEAL. Our journey to date has been both exciting and challenging: over the last few years, the agency’s use of ICT4D has become widespread with over 100 support requests logged in the last year. We have benefited greatly from the work undertaken by many other agencies that have embarked on a similar course; in return, we would like here to share some of our learning!

Hot Tips:

  • ICT4D supports better communication – data captured electronically is available in real-time, leading to prompt corrections and more accurate data, enabling timely feedback to stakeholders, and improved decision making.
  • ICT4D generates greater impact – technology provides greater access to information to help empower local communities, and provides a medium for voices to be heard.
  • ICT4D enables programs to reach scale more quickly – permitting greater coverage and reduced intervention costs per person.
  • ICT4D improves cost efficiencies – the technology pays for itself by eliminating expenses associated with conventional data collection and reporting approaches, and by allowing re-usability of its components.

Lessons Learned:

  • Understand context – how the solution will be used; the impact on day-to-day practices of different stakeholders; environmental (e.g., connectivity and power), political (e.g., government regulations), and cultural (e.g., language, gender, and education levels).
  • Identify solutions that do not require heavy investment in infrastructure; software services that are easily configured and maintained; solutions that are appropriate to users’ data needs and that work in occasionally connected environments with intermittent access to power and work across a range of user devices.
  • Articulate the true cost of the solution including procurement, deployment, maintenance and support over the life of the solution, not merely over the project cycle.
  • Compare the costs of working with and without the support of an ICT4D solution.
  • Implement a change management program to facilitate the behavior changes required to enjoy the benefits of ICT4D for enhanced MEAL.

Rad Resources: Check out the learning taking place around CRS’s annual conferences.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Information and Communication Technology for Development (ICT4D) for Monitoring, Evaluation, Accountability and Learning (MEAL) week. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from members who work in ICT4D for MEAL. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.


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