On June 3, MERL Tech and CLEAR-Anglophone Africa hosted the second of three virtual events for gLOCAL Evaluation Week. At this event, we heard from Ignacio Del Busto, IDInsight, Janna Rous, Humanitarian Data, and Ayanda Mtanyana, New Leaders, on the topic of remote monitoring.
Data is not always available, and it can be costly to produce. One challenge is generating data cheaply and quickly to meet the needs of decision-makers within the operational constraints that enumerators face. Another is ensuring that the process is high quality and also human-centered, so that we are not simply extracting data. This can be a challenge when there is low connectivity and reach, poor networks capacity and access, and low smartphone access. Enumerator training is also difficult when it must be done remotely, especially if enumerators are new to technology and more accustomed to doing paper-based surveys.
Watch the video below.
Listen to just the audio from the session here.
Some recommendations arising from the session included:
- Learn and experiment as you try new things. For example, tracking when and why people are dropping off a survey and finding ways to improve the design and approach. This might be related to the time of the call or length of the survey.
- It’s not only about phone surveys. There are other tools. For example, WhatsApp has been used successfully during COVID-19 for collecting health data.
- Don’t just put your paper processes onto a digital device. Instead, consider how to take greater advantage of digital devices and tools to find better ways of monitoring. For example, could we incorporate sensors into the monitoring from the start? At the same time, be careful not to introduce technologies that are overly complex.
- Think about exclusion and access. Who are we excluding when we move to remote monitoring? Children? Women? Elderly people? We might be introducing bias if we are going remote. We also cannot observe if vulnerable people are in a safe place to talk if we are doing remote monitoring. So, we might be exposing people to harm or they could be slipping through the cracks. Also, people self-select for phone surveys. Who is not answering the phone and thus left out of the survey?
- Consider providing airtime but make sure this doesn’t create perverse incentives.
- Ethics and doing no harm are key principles. If we are forced to deliver programs remotely, this involves experimentation. And we are experimenting with people’s lives during a health crisis. Consider including a complaints channel where people can report any issues.
- Ensure data is providing value at the local level, and help teams see what the whole data process is and how their data feeds into it. That will help improve data quality and reduce the tendency to ‘tick the box’ for data collection or find workarounds.
- Design systems for interoperability so that the data can overlap, and the data can be integrated with other data for better insights or can be automatically updated. Data standards need to be established so that different systems can capture data in the same way or the same format;
- Create a well-designed change management program to bring people on board and support them. Role modeling by leaders can help to promote new behaviors.
Further questions to explore:
- How can we design monitoring to be remote from the very start? What new gaps could we fill and what kinds of mixed methods could we use?
- What two-way platforms are most useful and how can they be used effectively and ethically?
- Can we create a simple overview of opportunities and threats of remote monitoring?
- How can we collect qualitative data, e.g., focus groups and in-depth interviews?
- How can we keep respondents safe? What are the repercussions of asking sensitive questions?
- How can we create data continuity plans during the pandemic?
Download the event reports:
See other gLOCAL Evaluation 2020 events from CLEAR-AA and MERL Tech: