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Assessing the Use of Mobile Technology and the Direction of Future Strategy for Community-Based Development

Published 02/10/2015 by Global Communities

Assessing the Use of Mobile Technology and the Direction of Future Strategy for Community-Based Development

Kim Baskin, Camila Fierro, Sophie Matte, Melissa Persaud and Molly Slotznick Contribute to Research on Use of Mobile Technology in Global Communities’ Programs
Global Communities’ growth as an organization has been accompanied by a strongly decentralized approach to development that places a heavy emphasis on locally tailored solutions. Taking advantage of this approach local teams have developed and implemented ICT tools to target very specific needs and applications that vary widely across countries and projects. Among noted successful solutions:

The e-vouchers system used in Yemen to keep track of beneficiaries’ food entitlements while allowing Global Communities team to collect and store information about beneficiaries, vendors, and communities;

The offline HYD software used in South Sudan, adaptable to meet the data collection needs and to facilitate outreach to isolated communities;

The SmartSol platform used in Ghana in Secondi Takoradi, accessible to communities with varying levels of technological access and capable of ensuring that all needs were heard.
While these ICT solutions have performed well individually, their ‘hyper-local’ nature and variable reporting procedures limit the extent to which lesson learned can be extrapolated and shared across projects. To analyze the applications and assess viable options in moving forward, Global Communities’ Knowledge Management Unit engaged the help of a team of Master Candidates from Colombia University’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) and their academic advisor, Dr. Tony Barclay, Adjunct Professor.
The Columbia SIPA team reviewed successful Global Community solutions as well as project specific challenges including the need for the extra time and staff buy-in (Ghana), lack of flexibility in making modifications (Yemen), or cost and lack of capacity to create multiple surveys (South Sudan).  Further review by the team focused on best practices currently used by major market players and the ICT strategies they develop and use. Based on these reviews, a major challenge has been identified to be tackled by Global Communities in the future: how to maximize the benefits of mobile technologies in project implementation while respecting the autonomy of country- and project-based staff and how to reconcile anticipated challenges in improving the aggregation and usability of beneficiary and project data. While Global Communities has made significant progress in defining clear goals to be achieved by a new mobile strategy, a path forward still needs to be identified so as to move from ad-hoc to strategic use of ICT solutions in community development work worldwide.