Web4Dev: Innovation Track Day 2

The second day of the Innovation Track at Web4Dev focused on monitoring and evaluation. Robert Kirkpatrick from InSTEDD, Erik Hersman from Ushahidi and Christopher Strebel from UNESCO each gave a presentation.

Robert introduced InSTEDD’s Mesh4X and GeoChat which I’ve already blogged about here so won’t expand on. But Robert also introduced a new project I was not aware of called Evolve. This tool helps to synthesize data into actionable information, to collaborate around diverse data streams to detect, analyze, triage and track critical events as they unfold.

Erik introduced Ushahidi and described our increasing capacity to crowdsource eyewitness crisis data. However, the challenge is increasingly how to consume and make sense of the incoming data stream. There were thousands of Tweets per minute during the Mumbai attacks. Ushahidi is working on Swift River to explore ways to use crowdsourcing as a filter for data validation.

Christopher Strebel introduced GigaPan, a robotic camera that captures gigapixel images. The tool was developed for the Mars Rover program to take very high resolution images of Mars. UNESCO is introducing the technology for education purposes. I’m not sure I’m entirely convinced about this project; not just because the camera costs $300-$400 but because I don’t see what such a sophisticated  tool adds over regular cameras in terms of education and participation.

In any case, while I found all three presentations interesting, none of them actually addressed the second topic of today’s workshop, namely evaluation. I spent most of December and January working with a team of monitoring and evaluation (M&E) experts to develop a framework for a multi-year project in Liberia. I can conclude from this experience that those of us who don’t have expertise in M&E have a huge amount to learn. Developing serious M&E frameworks is a rigorous process.

Patrick Philippe Meier

6 responses to “Web4Dev: Innovation Track Day 2

  1. Hello Patrick,

    Thanks for being such a good blogger for Web4Dev – I’m gathering links for TrackerNews!

    re Gigapan – I blogged about a couple of months ago: http://tinyurl.com/974e6o Costs go down, so the big focus is utility: Does is provide a needed service? If you want to share information best conveyed visually for collaborative decisions, it’s got a lot to offer.

    A digression: In a previous life, I spent a fair amount of time chasing everything from wild bears, wildcats and wild horses to wildlife biologists for television documentaries. Gigapan photos would have been ideal for providing both a sense of ecosystem context and the ability to zoom into particular areas of interest. It allows connections to be made more easily. A scientist in the field can only see what her binoculars permit. A Gigapan photo provides an opportunity for a longer, deeper analysis in the lab.

    In terms of humanitarian work, I understand that Architecture for Humanity has been playing with a Gigapan set up.. I am not sure how it’s gone, but conceptually it’s an interesting tool for helping site buildings.

    cheers & best,

    Janet / http://www.TrackerNews.net

  2. This is where the social net gets fun. It is wonderful to be able to contribute, even tangentially, to the conversation going on in NY.


  3. Strange that M&E panel did not deal with M&E, but the UN does work according to its own logic. UN clearly has lot of folks who do M&E seriously. I have worked with some from time to time and concur with Patrick. It is a difficult art that tests one’s methodological skills.

  4. Nice post from web4dev. Great to see the presentations are also available on the wiki. I share your scepticism about the Gigapan project. What does panorama photos make for a difference for development?

    But I want to add some remarks to the M&E point.
    1. I imagine Ushahidi could be used itself for evaluation when mobiles are used to get feedback for example about government services. I blogged about it here: http://www.crisscrossed.net/2008/05/19/wisdom-of-crowd-bottom-up-measuring-of-development-results/
    2. I have seen quite a lot of M&E approaches and think there is also a danger of having highly developed frameworks with tons of statistics, which say in the end very little, whether for example farmers are less poor. This phenomena of large frameworks happens particular on policy level. Often qualitative interviews in a neighbourhood can give clearer results then the best sophisticated M&E instruments. Of course I by that I do not mean to send out a questionnaire to a target group, but to have rather an anthropological approach to understand and measure for example poverty in a local context, which lacks in most cases profound statistical data.

  5. Pingback: Impact of ICTs on Repressive Regimes: Findings by Patrick Philippe Meier « Remixing the Web for Social Change

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