3. How can we establish processes to make information about benefits and results of impact analysis systematically available?

Jenny Aker
Jenny AkerTufts UniversityUnited States of America

In my opinion, one of the biggest constraints to learning about ICTs and development is the absence of an "information clearinghouse". There is so much information, in a variety of areas and on a variety of topics, that it can be difficult to find, understand and keep up with what is happening in the ICT4D sector in different fields. ICT-based projects are funded and implemented by NGOs, donors, the private sector and public-private partnerships; they span agriculture, labor, education, health and governance areas; there are qualitative and quantitative evaluations of these projects; and they are disseminated in different formats (journals, newspapers, blogs).

This learning is so important, however, so that we can learn from potential "successes", especially in other sectors (m-health, for example); reduce duplication of effors in the same areas; and avoid repeating failures (or learn what those failures are, and improve upon them). mobileactive.org does a nice job of summarizing what is happening in this field -- is there room for another online information clearinghouse that could summarize (or link to information sites) ICT4D impact evaluations of different types? The issue is, of course, sharing negative evaluations -- this is always difficult to do.

stephen kimole
stephen kimoleKenya Institute of Organic FarmingKenya

The first thing that needs pointing out is the promotion of ICT is not an event but a process that needs an efficiently working system.
Collaboration of private sector, Customers (users of the technology), research institutions and governments is very essential for communication of success stories and failures of innovations. The more people we have using the technology, the more advertisement we have…therefore for us to have more people using the technology they must be aware of its availability and application, conversant with the technology for example computer literacy.
For example in Kenya the government is helping in Ensuring ICT innovations adoption, ADAPTATION and application especially in rural areas by introducing digital villages through entrepreneurs approach which ensures sustainability of the projects. These centers provide the services and also enlighten the people on the availability and application of the same. New innovations need to be well publicized so as ensure that people are aware and can come up with ways of incorporating them into their activities.

Ummm not sure I completely agree with Jenny about having "information clearing house". This sounds to me too top-down and not very much in-line with the new "crowd sourcing" paradigm.

Donors, academia, project beneficiaries, private and public sector, have to get much better in systematically documenting their experiences and sharing the good, bad and indifferent. We should be brave enough to share our failures, as failures are a stepping stone to success.

The idea of clearing house is a scary one for me.... Who will clear what, who has the authority to clear what? Will it be someone sitting in an office with little or no on-the-ground experience? Would not it be better for peers to validate the findings and impact of an activity/project?

Would not it be better to hear first hand from the people who were directly involved with a rural development activity why it worked and why it did not work.

Honestly speaking I do not have an answer to this question - which for me is the 1 million dollar question. But I am 100% convinced that a clearing house is not quite the answer!

We need to have 'ICT Call Centres' established at villages (as they will be accessible and accountable). The entire documentation and dissemination may be processed by these call centres. Whosoever seeks information on any aspects relating to agriculture, markets and impacts of ICT etc may be reverted to specific domain incharge. These call centres may be established based on successful PPP models.


pablo moreno
pablo morenoUniversidad Nacional de ColombiaColombia

Estamos de acuerdo; el exito de las TIC´s en el sector agrícola, se da mediante la integración de la comunidad local, campesina y toda población vulnerable, con la creación de centros de información entre los pueblos.
Los TIC Call Centers deben ser complematente amplios e incluyentes, donde la constitucion y creación de estos, represente una verdadera participación de las comunidades agricolas.

Rami Eid-Sabbagh
Rami Eid-SabbaghHasso-Plattner-InstituteGermany

i totally agree we need a collaborative approach where locals and practitioners report from the field and donors about their programmes.
there is already a lot of information distributed over the web. the question is how to gather it and put it into struture. one idea for web use would be to agree on some sort of classification scheme or framework that is represented in certain searchable tags on a webpage. these tags may then be crawled or indexed with specific search engines. of course here is the difficulty how to disseminate and agree on that classification?
but in general it is a classification and not a ploitcial issue. academia, project beneficiaries, private and public sector should be able to develop something simple usable together.
just as example, classification could be: used technology, target of livelihood asset (human capital, social capital, natural capital, physical capital, financial capital), target group, sector.
in general it should be simple and easy to use and find.
and as said before we have to introduce a culture of talking about failures.

Johannes Keizer
Johannes KeizerFAO of the United NationsItaly
At the recent EUROVOC conference in Luxemburg I met an Information manager from the Office of the  Greek government.  He told me that they are now going to publish all financial transactions of the government on the Internet. He said, as there are no working control mechanisms, only complete openness and transparency could defeat corruption and misuse. They actually were going a step further; they not only will publish their data as office files or HTML pages. They will publish them as "Linked Open Data".  This is a format that can be found and interpreted by machines and easily re-used by other service providers.
Measurement of such reuse would tell us much more about impact than figures of "hits" and "visitors".  But to come there, we not only need to be transparent and publish everything, we also have to use open data formats, that easily can be understood and interpreted by automatic agents
Canning S Shabong
Canning S ShabongDepartment of Agriculture, Meghalaya (India)India

Any ICT project that that truly works on the ground will spread through word of mouth and other media among the communities and cultures that have benefitted from the same. However, there is also a tendency to hype about the so called benefits and success by the various actors. There is also a tendency to window dress and project only the rosy side of the picture by the players in this field.
Therefore, objectivity and transparency are very important before these results are put in the public domain.

Anja Kiefer
Anja KieferGTZGermany

It's not just information about ongoing ICT4D projects that we need to share.
More specifically, it's information about successful (or failed) impact assessments, such as:
- what method was used?
- what data sets are useful in which context?
- when does impact assessment actually improve project management?
- which analyses weren't successful in the long run and why?
- and so on
that should be shared, as well.
Everybody who's been working in development projects has had some experience with impact analyses. So, if someone has already created a well-developed questionnaire that really gets answers to important questions, and we are working in a similar project context, it would help tremendously to know about it. Or if certain methods of measuring impact always fail in certain contexts, knowing about it we don't need to repeat the mistake.
I don't think this is specific to ICT contexts, but still, there probably are some aspects that are only relevant for projects using some form of ICT.
Any thoughts on that?

SO interesting to see the discussions going on here. Could not resist adding my 2 cents worth. An information clearing house would be ideal in a utopian setting, but there already are many donors/ NGOs (international/ local) who set forth on such ambitious projects. Often the problem such clearing houses face is ensuring the information going out is relevant and timely. And just as Roxy comments: 'who has the authority to clear what", Í ask: who would rely solely on a clearing house? People who work in development already have networks they turn to when they want information, they go to specific websites/ repositories because that's where their peers go, and that's where they're comfortable. When establishing knowledge/ information pathways, imho, it is better to use the infrastructure that's available online to ensure your valuable information has the desired outreach. In my previous organization, we dealt with information accessibility in several ways, after all we wanted our work (which included benefits and impact assessments) to reach our donors, partners and the fisher/ farmer communities. So we explored several pathways in tandem, using what was already available in the field. The more sophisticated online information exchange was useful for our partners but for the fisher communities, hearing from a successful fisher/ farmer (physical visit or mobile phone call) was all that was needed. Brickbats welcome...