When it comes to monitoring and evaluation (M&E), technology plays a significant role. More than anybody else, a researcher like me who began their work before 2000 can only understand this. Forget about applications; we didn’t have computers to handle and analyse data in our offices back then. I was sharing with my colleague yesterday how I would transport the completed paper questionnaires to the data entry operator’s office in Delhi’s freezing weather on my scooter. I had almost decided to quit my job and leave Delhi (Dilli ki sardi!).
The role of technology is manifold in monitoring and evaluation, which can be seen as a tool for collecting data, managing data, surveying and assessing, using GIS technology to map locations and monitor activities at those locations, and using remote monitoring to track the performance of an organization’s systems and finally to create insightful visualizations. Let’s discuss these in detail:
- Data collection: The collection of data is the first step in a monitoring and evaluation program. Data collection involves gathering information from a variety of sources. In the case of monitoring projects’ performance, this could involve gathering measurements and metrics on things such as reach of an activity, their coverage and results etc. When collecting data, it is important to collect accurate information and make sure that you trust your sources. You can use surveys, interviews, or other qualitative methods of collecting information. For data collection, mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets, can be used to collect data in real-time. This can be particularly useful in remote or hard-to-reach areas. These tools can make data collection more efficient and cost-effective by allowing data to be collected in real-time and reducing the need for paper-based forms. In addition, the use of technology has also made it possible for M&E professionals to store large volumes of data on handheld devices such as tablets or smartphones. This means that they will have access to all their data wherever they are without having to carry large amounts of equipment or papers around with them.
- Data management and analysis: Once we have collected your data, it needs to be organized and then analyzed so that it can be used to evaluate programs or projects. Data management includes organizing our data into a usable format and using a software application (such as Excel, SPSS, STATA) to analyze our data. This process is called cleansing your data and making sure that you are ready for analysis. For data management, cloud-based tools can also be used to store, manage, and analyze data. This can help ensure data security and make it easier for team members to collaborate and access the data.
- Geospatial analysis: GIS technology can be used to map out where a social intervention or data collection is taking place, as well as to track changes in the area over time. It can be used to map data, identify patterns and trends, and visualize the distribution of a social intervention.
- Remote monitoring: Another important aspect of M&E is remote monitoring which involves sending alerts back to the projects’ stakeholder so that they can be addressed immediately rather than waiting until the project completion. Video conferencing, remote data collection, and other remote monitoring tools can be used to monitor the implementation of a social intervention, even if team members are not physically present.
- Dashboards and visualization tools: Dashboards and visualization tools helps us to make sense of the data, by presenting it in an easily understandable format. It makes it easier to track progress and identify any issues with the intervention. With the help of software and technology, the analysis can be automated which can help in creating reports, dashboards and other visual representation of the data, this can be beneficial in understanding the progress and impact of the intervention.
Overall, technology can greatly enhance the quality, efficiency and accuracy of monitoring and evaluation process, thus, allowing organizations to make better-informed decisions about their programs and to allocate resources more effectively.
Author: Paresh Kumar, CEO & Co-founder, DevInsights