In rural and low-resource contexts, low-cost technology, like SMS, can facilitate faster, cheaper data collection and reporting about government processes. As a result, a new question arises: how can we use this new data to help people understand complex processes, and to drive them to action?
A values-based approach to evaluating the role of tech in social change projects: starting with a broader canvas
Our field is growing up. All around us, colleagues and friends who, like us, specialize in using tech for social change are developing nuanced, practical and helpful guides for practitioners. These tools are a far cry from the simplistic checklists that the sector produced five years ago - they are wide-ranging, practical walkthroughs of the challenges that tech-enabled projects face. For example, check out the Tool Selection Assistant from the Engine Room - the latest of many excellent contributions they’ve made to our field - and the Data Starter Kit developed by the Cash Learning Partnership’s Electronic Cash Transfer Learning Action Network. What’s great about them is that they go beyond purely technical considerations to cover the enormous range of success factors that come together to make an impactful, sustainable tech-enabled project, from legal implications, to organizational information management processes, to fit with existing community habits and capacity. We’re proud to be collaborators on these tools, and we’ve taken a similarly open approach with one of our latest products - our Monitoring and Evaluation Framework.
WITTT forum in Vanuatu 2015. Photo Credit: ActionAid Australia (2015)
Did you miss our online course, “Scalable, Low-Cost Technologies for Civil Society Organizations”? Now you can take it at your own pace! Sign up for our new email-based course here.
Seán Ó Siochrú (Nexus Research, Evaluator, left) and Christopher O. Juma (Mombasa SACCO, Manager, right)
The relationship between ICTs and security receives widespread attention in two, apparently contradictory categories: on one hand, arguing that policing of communities via surveillance information has made them more insecure; and on the other, pointing to the variety of ways that communities use ICTs to deal with stresses and shocks to make themselves safer. Here at SIMLab, we argue that the issues around ICTs and human security are perhaps a bit more complex than that.
The discussion is available for download as a podcast via iTunes or Soundcloud , and we expect the insights gained will be valuable for the international development and tech community for practitioners and beyond. Releasing the event as a podcast is an experiment in providing resources for the community that live on beyond the work itself—let us know what you think in the comments!
Happy Halloween! The 31st October isn’t just your annual opportunity to eat your weight in sweets - it’s also the official birthday of FrontlineSMS, and this year marks the tenth anniversary of its first release! The award-winning SMS management tool was the core of SIMLab’s work for our first seven years - but the first version of the software was actually released for the first time on this day in 2005.
Update! We’ve extended the deadline to apply to this Sunday, 4 October. Don’t delay and apply for our course today!
Humanitarian agencies have made increasing use of SMS and mobile telephony in disaster response since the South Asian Tsunami in 2004-5, but particularly following the Haitian earthquake in 2010, where lack of access to communities and high mobile penetration combined to make SMS an attractive means of distributing key messages about sanitation and available assistance. From the last mile rural community to the most vulnerable in urban settings, the predictable cost, asynchronous but intimate nature, and inherent robustness of SMS make it ideal for moving small packets of information swiftly and reliably. In contexts where communication by other means is costly or unreliable, SMS can be effectively used to manage staff and volunteers, collect management information and monitoring data, and provide a responsive two-way communications channel for beneficiaries and communities.