Digital technology facilitates the evaluation of development projects. But a number of factors need to be taken into account – from digital competence to data protection.
In war zones and areas affected by crisis, traditional project monitoring can be difficult due to security concerns and inadequate infrastructure. Digital tools offer alternatives to this. They make it easier to identify cause-effect relationships and document the effective use of funds for donor organisations.
The advantages of digital monitoring:
Greater reach: The widespread availability of mobile phones means that digital systems can be used to include population groups it would otherwise be difficult or very costly to reach.
Participation and empowerment: Digital systems allow the perspectives of a greater number of people to be taken into account.
Value for money: Initial development cooperation projects show greater cost efficiency in data collection, including on a large scale.
Rapid iteration: In digital projects, individual data collection cycles can usually be completed within 24 hours. With results essentially available in real time, adjustments can be made much more quickly in order to achieve project objectives.
Not a panacea: Digital systems are just one of many monitoring instruments, and must be integrated into project cycles to bring any benefit.
Training is required: Digital projects in development cooperation require basic technical knowledge of complex topics (mobile technology, digital data collection, data science). This knowledge is not always readily available in project teams.
The following approaches have proven effective:
Involve all team members: Digital monitoring is a cross-cutting task for all members of the extended project team.
Find the right medium: What is the best way to reach the intended target groups? Text messaging (SMS) and Integrated Voice Response (IVR) technology are available on every mobile phone, and are familiar to most people around the world. IVR is a good option when there is no way of knowing whether the target group can read or write. Text messaging is a better approach if the target group has functional reading and writing skills.
Create favourable conditions: The target group must not incur any costs as a result of participating in a survey. Incentives are needed to ensure that as many people as possible take part.
Ensure comprehension: Questionnaires should be kept brief and translated into the main local languages.
Ensure data quality: The quality, plausibility and validity of data must be established at an early stage.
Adhere to the rules: Data protection must be ensured and anti-spam laws in the project country must be complied with. Participant approval must be documented in the case of surveys. If a person wishes to opt out of the survey, they should have the option of doing so easily and at any time.