Monday 9.30-11.00 (Bridewell Hall)

How will emerging technology shape the future of MERL?  Penny Hawkins, Independent (Moderator); Yazeed Sheqem, Souktel; Raphael Mazet,; Emma Prest, DataKind UK; Andi Friedman, Mobenzi
What new or emerging thinking, approaches and tools will impact MERL? We’ll hear about the potential and challenges of artificial intelligence, blockchain, big data, chat bots, biometrics and other emerging technologies.

Session Details:

The goal of this session is to explore the impact of emerging technologies on MERL. A panel of experts will talk about the technologies they’re involved in, how they’re being applied right now, and what their role might be in shaping the future.

  • Emma Prest, General Manager of Datakind UK, will talk about how the use of machine learning, artificial intelligence and neural networks and to can be used for predictive analysis.
  • Raphaël Mazet, CEO of, will give his views on the potential to harness big MERL data with blockchain technology to automate reporting, facilitate decentralised collaboration and increase donations.
  • Yazeed Sheqem, Director of Programs & Strategy at Souktel, will explore practical use cases for MERL chatbots and Emojis.
  • Andi Friedman, Managing Director at Mobenzi, will explain how MERL practitioners can pioneer the use of biometrics, and the impact this will have on sector.

The session will be moderated by Penny Hawkins, Independent Consultant and former Head of Evaluation at DfID, who will explore the following themes with the panel:

  • What are these emerging technologies and why are they interesting for MERL? What can we do with them in terms of data collection, predictive analysis, automation, reporting and more? What has been their use and adoption to date, and what are the initial lessons we can take from them?
  • How are these emerging technologies affecting the way we think about data in development and humanitarian work? How are they influencing our approaches in terms of what we can do, who we can include and how we can make data collection less of a burden, more fun and more useful?
  • What are some of the challenges with these new tools and approaches that we need to think more about: practical, organisational, methodological, ethical, technological? Where should we be trying to learn more about them and to improve on their potential for MERL? What else needs to be in place if we are going to start using these kinds of tools?
  • What short term developments can we expect in the adoption of these tools, and what can we do, practically, right now, to start testing their use?


Penny Hawkins, Independent. MERL Tech Organising Team and Selection Committee. Penny is an evaluation specialist with extensive experience in public sector evaluation in New Zealand and the United Kingdom. She is the former Head of Evaluation at the UK Department of International Development (DFID) and before taking up that role in 2013, was an evaluation specialist at The Rockefeller Foundation in New York. Penny has held a number of evaluation management roles in New Zealand government departments including as Head of Evaluation for the New Zealand Aid Programme at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. She serves as the Chair of the OECD-DAC Network on Development Evaluation and from 2003-13 was a faculty member for the International Program for Development Evaluation Training (IPDET) at Carleton University in Canada. She is a former president of the Australian Evaluation Society. Penny has contributed to several evaluation publications including co-editing a book published in 2012 Evaluation Cultures – Sense Making in Complex Times. In 2007, she received the AES Award for Outstanding Contribution to Evaluation. See Penny’s full bio here and follow her on Twitter at @penehawk.


Raphaël Mazet, CEO, Raphaël is a social entrepreneur specialised in blockchain philanthropy and social impact. He co-founded as a response to the decline in public trust in the charity sector, after a decade spent working in corporate relations and digital advocacy in Europe, Latin America and the US. His fascination for blockchain technology started in 2015, when he discovered the potential for smart contracts to increase charity funding based on transparency and accountability. Learn more about Raphaël here, at or follow him on Twitter @raph_alice.

Yazeed Sheqem, Director of Programs & Strategy, Souktel Digital Solutions. Yazeed leads Souktel’s strategic planning and collaboration with partners in MENA, Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. He also drives Souktel’s consulting practice which advises clients in the fields of ICT for development and mobile for development. He has extensive experience in the area of technology utilization for disaster and emergency response as well as economic growth and employment. Yazeed holds a Master’s degree in economics from the Goethe University in Frankfurt-Germany as well as a higher degree in urban planning from New York University. He is based in Amman-Jordan and is fluent in Arabic, English, and German. Founded in 2006, Souktel is a provider of end-to-end technology solutions that support the projects of 30+ development funders and implementers across the globe. More about Yazeed here, at and on Twitter @souktel.

Andi Friedman, Co-founder & CEO, Mobenzi. Mobenzi partners with organisations to empower frontline workers, engage communities and inform decision-makers using flexible web and mobile technology platforms. Founded in 2007, Mobenzi solutions are now deployed in over 40 countries across health, education, research, M&E and other sectors. Andi holds a degree in Computer Engineering from the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa and is the President of the Cape Town chapter of Entrepreneurs Organisation – a network of more than 12,000 successful entrepreneurs worldwide. He has co-authored several academic papers which explore the use of mobile technology in the ICT4D sector. His speaking appearances and panel contributions include Mobile World Congress, the International AIDS conference, TEDx, PHASA and ICT4Health. More about Andi here, at, and on Twitter @mobenzi or @andi_friedman.

Emma Prest, General Manager, DataKind UK. Emma is the General Manager at DataKind UK. She is responsible for supporting the influx of data science volunteers, managing them to deliver data-for-good projects, and building understanding about what data science can do in the non-profit sector. Emma sits on the Editorial Advisory Committee at the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, the NSPCC’s Digital Taskforce and NCVO’s Digital Advisory Group. She was previously a programme coordinator at Tactical Tech, providing hands-on help for activists using data in evidence-based campaigns. Emma holds an MA in Public Policy with a specialism in Media, Information & Communications from Central European University in Hungary and a degree in Politics and Geography from the University of Edinburgh, Scotland. Check out Datakind or follow them at @datakinduk.