The Use of ICT Tools in Monitoring and Evaluation

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The author, Eric Yadanbon is the M$E officer for Savana Signatures

Resources have become extremely scarce while expectations for development are growing. The search for more efficient systems to measure impact is on. Various governments are also working to improve their own ways of measuring the impact of their investment.

The demand for citizen participation in development activities is also increasingly being demanded likewise voices for accountability and transparent use of national resources. This is so because donor agencies, governments and Non government agencies want to be able to measure the impacts of their interventions on the socio-economic and even political set up of a nation.

This, however calls for more effective and efficient monitory and evaluation. Various trends are impacting on the field of monitoring and evaluation in both national and international development processes.

The potentials of M&E as tool for measuring the impacts of investment has not been fully realized because of inefficiency in the field. Resources are limited and scare but the demand for socio-economic development is higher. This calls for the judicious use of limited and scare resources to achieve economic and social development.

These factors in addition to greater competition for limited resources in the area of international development are pushing donors, NGO’s and evaluators themselves to seek more rigorous and at the same time flexible systems to monitor and evaluate development and humanitarian interventions.

This however will demand that a new way or tools are adopted. This calls for the introduction and integration of ICT into monitoring and evaluation. For example, the use of mobile phone to conduct surveys and collect data has worked well. This write up is going to focus on ICT for data collection and monitoring and evaluation.

Data collection and monitoring and evaluation (M&E) efforts take a great deal of time and methodical planning and implementation. In the past, these tasks were performed with paper and pen, which made them prone to errors, inconsistencies, and difficulties when conducting M4E on a large scale. The cost of undertaking large scale M&E is very high, and time consuming. Also this will demand that a larger number of people and in a country where qualified human resources are limited, it poses a threat to the successful M&E on a project.

Information and communication technology (ICT) tools, including hardware like mobile phones and tablets, applications that have the capacity to create digital surveys, and software that allows users to upload data to storage facilities in real-time, have reduced the conventional challenges associated with remote data collection. To establish a functional M$E in an organization the importance and use of ICT tools cannot be downplayed.

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Savana Signatures’ Technology for Maternal Health funded by STAR Ghana, in 2014, for example used the mobile survey to collect data to assess the impact of the project on beneficiaries. This method of data collection, proved to be cost efficient and flexible and as such, Savana Signatures would continue to use mobile phone or the more effective and efficient ICT tools to conduct surveys and collect data as a way of reducing cost and avoid errors in collecting and analyzing large data.

Though using ICT in M&E is a new field, there are evidences of it successes. Getting the right education and ICT tools or applications is a sure way of establishing a functional M&E department.

Note, one of the primary lessons is that technology itself is not sufficient to meet project objectives. Even a platform for free data collection does not guarantee that the right data will be collected effectively. However, aside deploying ICT-enabled applications and tools, maintaining a professional team will provide exact and accurate data and analysis. Training is an important component to collecting data through ICT tools.

With proper instruction, most organizations have found that even poor and uneducated people are capable of picking up the skills. Savana Signatures has taken a giant step towards this direction by training selected people in their project communities on the use of mobile phones to collect data on expectant mothers under the Technology for Maternal Health project.

To establish a functional M$E in an organization in this era, the use of ICT tools cannot be ignored.