Use of mobile technology and changing M&E practices

CommCareWith mobile phones all around, from booking a cab to buying grocery it would be quite irrelevant to use traditional means of data collection – delay adding to make it irrelevant. Without innovating the methods of data collection, make it smart yet simple, leaves much less a scope for improved project management practice. When agencies and programmes aim for highest level of impact, decision-making becomes inevitable. Project management teams are dependent on information available which in turn depends on real-time data collection, anything that adds to delay in this process (like manual data collection) impact quality of programme delivery, resource and cost effectiveness. Earlier, this was always a challenge and more often thought ends up with less options sometimes never followed later. Another key factor, acting as building blocks of sustainable intervention is working at scale. Like, collecting data from few field personnel is doing in case of a small project intervention when data is collected weekly from 200 participants in a community. The biggest challenge is when interventions are widespread and working at scale with communities and stakeholders is the only way forward. As the use of mobile phone has made everyday human life easy, time efficient using few resources, it also added value in collecting data online using mobile phones. Doing this has become much easier, all what is needed is knowledge about form building and (as in case of MS Access, RDBMS) and validation and building logic and loops. CommCare, a mobile product by Dimagi, has been much helpful to build forms and cases, sharing a media files, location, hidden values, adding language etc. To being with forms were built and staff were trained with use of CommCare application. Initially, to took some weeks time to get rolled out (application corrupted, sync failure, installation of new ones etc). The data sharing by field teams became much easier with some time gap as it was for the first time to use mobile application for data collection and sharing. Later, users were able to share data more frequently – realtime. This helped not just to collect data real-time and also put some accountability practices in place, like how many forms were submitted by users daily, time of submission, etc. Once submitted realtime, data is exported in an excel form, cleaned and analysed. As the data is now collected daily, quickly analysed and shared with project teams using dashboard.
This simple yet smart data collection process is highly cost effective, user-friendly and technology efficient. Given that mobile phone is readily available these days, it needs some effort to design  the application, train users initially and roll out. The use of CommCare by Breakthrough has made the data collection much easier and innovative and by far has been successfully rolled out in two states (Haryana and Jharkhand). For a community package (zero cost liability upto fifty users) technical support is available by Dimagi for application related errors and we at Breakthrough have used this service quite extensively. Use of CommCare together with Google forms, Google docs, Google sheets has tremendously helped to make monitoring mechanisms simple and smart.

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