1. Privacy

Responsible data management is not new to development. However, with the use of technology-enabled tools for M&E, it has raised a few challenges related to the privacy of individuals. These include the growing use of biometric data for tracking and sensors to monitor daily habits. The collection of personal financial information and affiliation has also made it vital to consider data security when setting up an M&E framework. This can be addressed through data encryption, ensuring that individual data is not easily identifiable, and developing a policy that ensures responsible data practices. Furthermore, organisations need to be aware of the ethical implication of collecting data on people and the necessity to secure all the permissions and consents required. It is also important to be transparent about the methods of collection, why data is collected and how will it be used with the respective individuals. Finally, ownership has to be explicit when information is shared and a plan should be in place on what happens to data collected once a project ends. In South Africa, the Protection of Personal Information Act, 4 of 2013 also lends a relevant and interesting dynamic.

2. The end-user in mind

To select the most suitable technology-enabled tool(s), taking a human-centered design approach to the selection process will ensure that the organisation does not end up with an irrelevant or unnecessary tool. The approach starts with identifying what is desirable (one should consider project managers as well as community members, i.e. the people who will be using the tool), then viewing the solution through a feasibility and viability lens. This ensures and increases the usability of the tool as well as ensuring that no segment of the community is “ignored” as result of the selected tool, i.e. thinking of the accessibility of the tool and the training that would be required. Once identified, the tool should be piloted on one project before rolling it out.

3. Getting the right balance

Technology facilitates, but does not replace, M&E methodologies such as a well-thought out theory of change and quality M&E plan. So it may be tempting to fall into the habit of selecting or collecting data based on the easiest tool rather than what really matters to your program. Furthermore, technology can lead to over-dependence on digital data and missing the opportunity to observe and interact with communities in order to get a comprehensive picture of an intervention. To get the right balance, one must be very clear on the value the tool will add.

Although there are other factors to contemplate, the above three points offer a good guide to anyone considering the use of technology-enabled tools in their programs. With the ever-growing need to understand and measure impact, the integration of technology from delivery of services and monitoring of interventions to the evaluation of programs will continue as it offers possibilities and innovation to increasing reach, moving to scale and improving the efficiency and effectiveness of interventions.

This article was originally posted on the Tshikululu Social Investments blog. Photo courtesy of Jan Truter Creative Commons

About Amira

photo (1)

Amira Elibiary is a Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) specialist with 10 years of experience in research, grant-making and program management; over two years of experience in the corporate social investment sector for education, health and social development projects. With a keen interest and extensive experience in democracy, governance, advocacy and rule of law work. Amira holds a Master’s degree in International Affairs from American University and a BA degree in Economics.

TechChange courses are designed with busy working professionals in mind. In any of our courses you will find yourself engaging with a vast network of participants from all corners of the globe who bring with them unique experiences and perspectives.

Today, we are excited to chat with Amy Noreuil, a Technology Advisor working at USAID’s Office of Transition Initiatives. Amy has taken seven TechChange courses to date, both on-demand and facilitated. We caught-up with her to chat about her overall experience with TechChange as well as how our courses have impacted her professional life.

How did you find out about TechChange, and what caught your attention about TechChange courses, or got you interested in taking them?

I’ve been following TechChange for a number of years, but I think the first time I ever heard about it was through a TechChange-hosted happy hour where I ran into Chris Neu, Chief Operating Officer of TechChange. My curiosity was piqued because I always want to know about other initiatives going on when it comes to the use of technology for social good. I love going out and hearing about new projects that are under way to figure out how they could support our work or how we could support them. I’m a contextualist at heart – I believe the impact of technology can vary widely depending on the context – so I’m always interested in learning from the experience of others. I found the sense of community and diversity of students participating in TechChange courses to be one of the biggest assets. Everyone brings a unique perspective to the ‘classroom.’

After completing your first course with TechChange, what made you decide to enroll in more?

The first course I took with TechChange was Mapping for Social Good. After that first class, what drew me in – and what has kept me coming back to TechChange – is the people. To me, virtual learning experiences are inherently more individual experiences, but TechChange courses provide the opportunity to connect with other students and take what started as a quick chat to a more nuanced conversation. The interaction can be customized to what you want and need – a quick exchange of resources (e.g. reports, toolkits, etc.) or a deeper discussion about intended and unintended impact. The user interface is easy to navigate and caters to different learning preferences, including visual learners like me. It provides a high-level survey of topics or applications, while also giving the user the option to dig into the technical details of specific tools.

You’ve now taken seven TechChange courses – how have they impacted your career as a technology advisor for USAID’s Office of Transition Initiatives?

TechChange courses allow me to discover new tools as well as share experiences and insights with a wide range of people. I’m always looking for ways to break out of traditional silos.

The three major ways in which TechChange courses have impacted my work are:

  1. Meeting people who are passionate about the intersection of technology, media & data
  2. Finding tools and workshopping how they could support our partners and programs
  3. Connecting with people who bring different perspectives, ideas and approaches

What is your advice for other students participating in TechChange courses? How can they get the most out of the experience?

Come into the course with an idea of what you want to learn. Set your intention early and be open to change. This learning objective will help you navigate course content and connect with students. The facilitators are very approachable and accessible. I also really encourage participants to meet up in-person and offline with students who live in the same geographic area. There’s no replacing that face-to-face connection. Developing a community of practice and creating an environment that facilitates learning takes time and commitment. I’m excited to see the TechChange community continue to grow and change.

Interested in learning more about TechChange courses? Check out our online course catalog here! We will be launching new sessions of several of our most popular courses in the New Year! 

About Amy


Amy is the Technology Advisor at USAID Office of Transition Initiatives (OTI) where she supports staff as they decide how to integrate the use of information and communication technologies into their programs. She loves supporting co-creation spaces, leading digital literacy efforts and working closely with local staff to provide an outside perspective on the design of small grants. OTI supports U.S. foreign policy objectives by helping local partners advance peace and democracy.

Featured image: water filling a metal pot, taken March 26, 2009

This article was written as part of the course “Mobiles for International Development” offered through George Washington University, taught by TechChange’s CEO and founder Nick Martin.

Over 650 million people in the world do not have access to safe water. In many cities in India, the water supply is intermittent and water utility customers only receive main-line water supply once every 2-10 days for roughly 2 hours at a time. In many cases, the customers have no advance notice prior to the valve being shut off. For some, this could be a minor annoyance but for many, this interruption can prove life threatening. NextDrop, a mobile application that works through text messaging, seeks to address these critical gaps in water provision by using locally sourced data to improve water supply networks and access to information.

How Does NextDrop Work?
After paying a fee of between 5 to 10 rupees, the resident of a locality registers for the service by calling NextDrop. NextDrop will log the caller’s location and identify his or her closest water valve. When an engineer next examines the valve, he can send an interactive voice response (IVR) message to NextDrop. The message is then forwarded to both the local residents and to the water utility, allowing residents real real-time updates regarding when they will be receiving water and for how long. The valve-man can also record where there may be a water supply cancelation on a particular day so that residents can prepare accordingly.

Although NextDrop had its fair share of challenges, such as working with existing private contractors and the government providers, and training poorly paid and undereducated valvemen, the product has been endorsed by the Gates Foundation, the Clinton Global Initiative, and Google. First launched in Bangalore, NextDrop now has about 70,000 users across India, with the majority in Hubli, Dharwad, Mysore and Bangalore, all of which now boast nearly 90% coverage.

The Implications of NextDrop on Development Efforts
NextDrop has significant implications for the development field. In a country that is still plagued by corruption, NextDrop signifies a move toward crowd-sourced service delivery, eliminating the typical asymmetric information that often defines utilities in India. With NextDrop, residents don’t have to rely solely on the word of utility employees who may or may not have the community’s best interests in mind. Residents are involved from the ground up, empowering and enabling them to force transparency in service delivery.

One limitation to these mobile-based services is access to cell phones for the poorest citizens in a community. While programs like NextDrop base their services on their consumers having cell phones, this does not necessarily alienate citizens without phones. In future applications of mobile-based programs, organizations can partner with mobile phone providers to try and source used phones from wealthier citizens, creating an integrated community of providers and beneficiaries, potentially fostering a spirit of inclusion.

As part of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) passed during the U.N. General Assembly in 2015, Goal 6 specifically addresses the need to ensure clean water and adequate sanitation for everyone, everywhere. As individuals and organizations alike work to address this goal, innovations such as NextDrop will get us one step closer to equitable access to this life-sustaining resource.

Featured image credit: Wonderlane Creative Commons License 


About Sreya


Sreya Panuganti has an MA in International Politics and Human Rights from City University London. She is currently pursuing her MA in International Development Studies at the George Washington University where she concentrates on water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH). Ms. Panuganti has a background in a variety of capacities in both the private and public sectors, leveraging skills in research, analysis and cross-cultural communication – most recently, with the U.S. Department of State and the NGO WaterAid. She continues to pursue opportunities that allow her to further her understanding of the development field.

Featured image: A journalist takes a snapshot of the December 3, 2015 Black Lives Matter rally at Minneapolis City Hall.

Today, on Human Rights Day, we focus on the importance of digital safety for human rights defenders around the world. In an increasingly digitally connected world, it is even more crucial for human rights defenders – whether activists, journalists or aid workers, to be safe online as they fight for the rights of marginalized and oppressed groups.

One of the organizations working to keep human rights defenders safe online is Security First. Established in 2013, Security First aims to make it easier for human rights defenders (HRDs) to work safely. We spoke to the co-founder, Holly Kilroy to learn about their work and their latest app, Umbrella.

What led to Security First?

My co-founder, Rory Byrne and I have both worked in the human rights sector for over ten years and, unsurprisingly, faced many challenges, but the primary one was always security.

Both of us have been thinking about the problem of simplifying security for human rights defenders for the past 7 years, since our work in Sub-Saharan Africa establishing and running human rights video organization, Videre, altered us to the gap between need and existing tools when trying to secure our partners.

As well as building the app, Umbrella, we also provide security training to groups ranging from the largest human rights, media and aid NGOs in the world to individual LGBT activists on the ground.

Why the need for an app like Umbrella?

While there are a number of instrumental tools for the security of HRDs, collectively, they face a number of problems.

  • Dispersed: It is difficult for HRDs to keep on top of all the various tools and advice available and to know what to use/do when.
  • Complex: Many are designed for users who are adept at IT.
  • Fail to address digital and physical security holistically: Existing tools and resources focus on either digital or physical security, but fail to link them together in a cohesive strategy.
  • Unavailable on mobile devices: The many tools or content available only on websites or in PDFs mean they often remain inaccessible to the growing numbers of people in the developing world accessing the Internet solely via mobile devices. (e.g. 70% of the internet users in Egypt, 60% in India)

So we wanted to build a simple, easily-accessible tool that brought together digital and physical security, and helped human rights activists implement it in a really user-friendly way. We’re basically building the tool we wish we had ourselves.

Tell us a little more about Umbrella

If you’ve got a security problem, Umbrella will help you find the solution.

Umbrella app

Umbrella’s content has been sourced from best practice security manuals and digital security guides, and provides practical advice for everything — from how to make a secure phone call or protect files, to counter-surveillance or what to do in case of arrest.

Lessons give simple step-by-step actions of what to do in any given security situation, and show the best tools for it.

Levels allow users to choose their level of ability and also get answers that reflect the level of risk or the type of protection needed.

Checklists help mark the user’s progress and share with colleagues what actions have been implemented or have yet to be done.

Tools recommended in the lessons can be tricky, so a tool-guide gives step-by-step help on how to set up and use the tools suggested.

A dashboard provides real-time updates on possible security threats, and alerts the user if there is anything in the vicinity that she/he should be aware of – from physical security risks like protests or kidnappings, to environmental or health security risks like floods or disease outbreaks.

Umbrella is free, open-source, and has cleared a security code-audit – it doesn’t track users’ location or take any personal data on them. Once the app is downloaded it can be used without data – the only feature that needs Internet access is the dashboard.

What has been the response to Umbrella?

This iteration of the app launched into public Beta stage testing in October 2015. After just a few weeks, Umbrella has 800 users and growing, and 96% of reviews on Google Play are five star.

A preview of Umbrella

A preview of Umbrella

The response from the human rights and tech communities has been brilliant. They’ve been so welcoming and supportive.

One Iranian journalist and trainer who must remain anonymous for security reasons said,

“Umbrella is very useful for my work. It really helps me as an individual and a trainer. It keeps me to up to date on the go. It also keeps me updated with the newest tools, which is hard to do with my busy job. Based on my own experience it can help my students effectively learn how to protect themselves – from whatever may threaten them.”

Matt Timblin, who is Director of Security at Human Rights Watch, said,

“Managing the safety of staff and collaborators in insecure environments, across multiple locations and facing an array of threats can be challenging. The prospect of an easily accessible ‘one stop shop’ app, such as Umbrella, that allows quick access to security advice is an exciting and innovative development in helping improve the security of those working as human rights activists, humanitarians and journalists around the world.”

What are you hoping to see Umbrella achieve in the next year?

Security First is now looking to improve and build upon Umbrella in a number of ways. We want to:

1. Increase Umbrella’s functionality
We want to add several functions to Umbrella: We want to help users streamline the process of preventative planning through sharable planning forms; We want to improve users’ awareness of the specific risks they face by improving the dashboard functionality; We want to integrate existing tools where practical and safe to do so; and we want to allow for greater tailoring and customisation throughout the app.

2. Broaden Umbrella’s access
Clearly, at-risk human rights defenders reside in more than English-speaking countries – we want to broaden access to as many languages as possible. We have already had requests for translation into many languages, but for practicality’s sake, we will begin with Arabic and Spanish before considering other languages. We also want to make sure that those with using desktops can also use Umbrella. We plan to create an iPhone version of the app once Umbrella 2.0 is complete.

3. Improve content and usability of Umbrella
We want to ensure that each how-to guide is as clear, concise, intuitive and tailored to users in the field as possible. While the existing app is highly functional, we want to make sure it is a pleasure to use, so as to encourage retention. We obviously need to ensure that content remains up-to-date and relevant. We also want to improve the system for users contributing to and collaborating on content.

Have you tried out Umbrella yet, what did you think? You can let Security First know by tweeting @_SecurityFirst. If not, you can test out Umbrella on Google Play. If you know of other tech tools for the digital safety of human rights defenders, comment below or tweet at us @TechChange.

Holly Kilroy

Holly headshot
Holly Kilroy is the co-founder & Head of Org Development at Security First. She has spent the past eight years building projects that leverage technology and civil society coordination to address issues of human rights and conflict. Holly previously worked as the Emerging Powers Coordinator at Crisis Action where she launched and led the emerging powers program, providing direction for both organizational growth and campaign traction across the BRICS. Prior to this she helped set up Videre, where she spent four years as Head of Development, framing the need for safer, more effective video documentation and helping to launch projects around the world. Holly has also served as the International Officer for Irish Labour Youth and worked in communications for CSOs in Israel, the Occupied Palestinian Territories, and the UK.

Featured image credit: Tony Webster Flickr Creative Commons License 

In international development, we all love to talk about our successes, but we need to celebrate our failures too. And failures are exactly what we will be celebrating at Fail Fest on Thursday!

As a celebration of failures, the Fail Festival looks at failures as a mark of leadership and innovation, risk-taking and pushing the boundaries of what is possible in scaling ideas from pilots to global programs.

Last year at the Fail Fest, we presented our failures with the TechChange band. We had members across our team perform with vocals, guitar, drums, oboe, and – of course, PowerPoint. We celebrated our failures, from connectivity issues when doing online training sessions on Ebola to unanticipated challenges of moving into a new office.

Fail Fest 2014

TechChange at Fail Fest 2014

We are excited to share our experiences in providing interactive training for social change with all the hurdles that come with it. We had a blast celebrating our failures last year, and we hope to see you at the Fail Fest on Thursday!




Today is International Day of Persons with Disabilities.

Persons with disabilities constitute the world’s largest minority, 80% of whom live in developing countries – an estimated 800 million people. Approximately 20% of the world’s poorest people have a disability. In response to this reality, the United Nations (U.N.) adopted seven disability-related targets (e.g. Targets 4.5, 11.2, 11.7) as part of the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) developed in October 2015. (UN Enable)

Persons with disabilities should therefore be key stakeholders and beneficiaries of any development or humanitarian initiative, and monitoring and evaluation (M&E) systems should be capturing how programs impact them. Below are some resources that outline how technology can act as a tool to facilitate the inclusion of this largely marginalized population in M&E processes.


Core Data
Valuable program or country-specific data about persons with disabilities to collect during M&E may include:

  • Disability prevalence, disaggregated by type of disability, age and gender
  • Definitions of disabilities to compare to World Health Organization (WHO) and other definitions
  • Legal framework
  • Policies on segregation, institutionalization or community-based rehabilitation in health, education or penal systems
  • Education and employment rates
  • Representatives in government and civil society
  • Program administration data (i.e. rates and modes of inclusion in an activity, program or organization)

Early and consistent collection of this data is needed to determine where and how M&E can best occur in collaboration with persons with disabilities.

Using global datasets can increase the efficiency of data collection and facilitate comparative analysis. See:

E-accessibility is a measure of the extent to which a product or service can be used by a person with a disability as effectively as it can be used by a person without that disability.

E-accessibility should be among the criteria for choosing a device for data collection or dissemination. Consulting with local Disabled Persons Organizations (DPOs) can help determine if a tech tool will create barriers or enhance participation.

For example, mobile phones with hands-free, voice command features (think “Siri”) can enhance accessibility. Large print and screen reader compatible formats should be used to collect and provide information electronically to persons with impaired vision, blindness or dyslexia. Visual elements of documents, like photos, should have captions that can be read aloud. Radio or audio recordings deposited with a DPO can make evaluation results accessible across a range of disabilities. Real time captioning, or printing hard copies of the main script of a video or lecture, can increase inclusion of the hearing impaired. Braille printers (often available through a local DPO) can produce reports or surveys for the blind. These technologies enable persons with disabilities to participate independently and confidentially in surveys and other feedback mechanisms.

E-accessible technologies not only enhance M&E processes, but also can be low cost. Some operating systems have built-in automated voice read or Assistive Touch technologies. Software to read aloud or translate documents into Braille on-screen is often free (to read DAISY books, download here). Self-captioning software, such as Overstream and MAGpie, is also widely available for free. Training sessions for DPOs or enumerators on how to use these features or software may be necessary.

The following provide more information on e-accessible tools, methods and procurement:

Technology can change an environment that is disabling into one that is empowering by creating channels for persons with disabilities to have an equal voice in the programs that affect them.


About Leigh-Ashley

Leigh-Ashley Lipscomb is an independent analyst and Adjunct Research Fellow with the WSD Handa Center for Human Rights and International Justice at Stanford University.

It’s not every day that you get up from your desk, walk out of your office, and travel 8,353 miles to check in on a project. But in October that’s exactly what Delanie, Emily, and I did when we went to visit Malaria Consortium in Uganda.

As we walked out the office in Washington D.C., I started a timer on my phone to see what the door-to-door travel time would be. 26 hours later we were in the back of a hired car, dodging the mini-buses that barrel down the road between Entebbe and Kampala.

Why we returned to Kampala
We were in Uganda to check in on one of TechChange’s biggest projects: the “Diagnose and Treat Febrile Illnesses” eLearning course. Last year, we built a course for Malaria Consortium, one of the world’s leading non-profit organizations specializing in the prevention, control, and treatment of malaria. The course was meant to train private sector health workers and Rapid Diagnostic Testing sales representatives in Uganda and Nigeria.

In many malaria-endemic countries like Uganda and Nigeria, the disease has been prevalent for so long that pharmacists and doctors would give malaria treatment to any patient presenting symptoms of fever. Not only is this false diagnosis harmful for the patient, it also leads to the waste of costly treatments that don’t help the patient get better – in fact, their condition could become even more serious. Incorrect diagnoses can even be fatal: pneumonia is the leading cause of death for children under 5 in Sub-Saharan Africa, but it is often misdiagnosed as malaria.

Screen Shot 2015-12-01 at 2.16.19 PM

An e-learning solution to train health workers
The goal of the elearning training is to reach roughly 5000 health professionals in both Uganda and Nigeria and provide in-depth training on how to diagnose diseases that can present fever-like symptoms, like malaria, pneumonia, typhoid, and others. The two-day training provides a hybrid learning experience with off-line elearning modules and in-person trainings, created with local content to make the training as culturally-relevant as possible.

The training teaches healthcare workers the basics of how the malaria parasite works, how to conduct a malaria Rapid Diagnostic Test (RDT), how to diagnose patients for other illnesses, and how to provide treatment depending on the results they find.

It’s been a year since the training was implemented, so we were curious to see how the training fared. Was a computer-based training actually useful to trainers? Did students enjoy the training? Were there better learning outcomes?

Training 5

So, how is the training going so far?
We found that even with minor technical considerations, the training was a stunning success! Yes, there were certain drawbacks to having a computer-based training compared to a traditional lecture format. Among the biggest disadvantages were the possibility of power-outages, finding computers with adequate RAM and processing power to play the training, and also updating Adobe Flash (one of the requirements to run the training). However, with the help of an in-country technical setup team, these issues were controllable.

What do the trainers think?
Most importantly, trainers told us that the benefits of the blended learning style far outweighed any drawbacks caused by being dependent on computers. Students and trainers alike told us that the format allowed students to learn the content at their own pace, compared to a lecture where the instructor may move too quickly or slowly through content.

Malaria Consortium

What do the students think?
Students also told us that the interactive format made the learning experience much better than a lecture accompanied by slides. The visual nature of the training came up again and again as an aspect of the training that helped students learn.

Malaria Consortium

Students who had completed the pilot program took the training to heart. One pharmacist referred to the training as she told us about about her neighbor, who had recently come into her shop asking for antimalarials to treat his fever – but, his test result was negative, so she advised him to seek treatment at a health facility. After visiting the clinic, he stopped by the pharmacy to let her know that he had been diagnosed with Typhoid fever; if the pharmacist had misdiagnosed the fever and provided treatment for malaria, it would only have allowed his case of Typhoid to get worse.

This is just one anecdote of many. While concerns about electricity and infrastructure remain very real, it is exciting to see the training accomplishing it’s goals. We are excited to continue supporting and improving the delivery of this training with Malaria Consortium!

Is your organization looking to train your teams online? Besides online facilitated courses, we also also create custom offline computer trainings that can be used in settings where internet connectivity is a non-starter. See our different projects on our Enterprise page and feel free to reach out to us enterprise@techchange.org.