Brief Daily Summary of Insights from the ICT4D Conference

March 28, 2014 by

Catholic Relief Services’ staffer Melissa Stevens is collecting a few short insights from each day of the ICT4D (Information and Communication Technologies for Development) conference in Nairobi, Kenya, to give you a snapshot of how information and communication technologies are being used in programs that assist low-income people. This will be updated each day of the four-day conference. Unless otherwise noted, statements attributed to speakers are paraphrases rather than direct quotes.


An excellent study from Accenture and NetHope,”Insights into the Role of Technology in Addressing Development Challenges,” uncovered 5 trends for NGOs:

  • Need for markedly different approaches to engaging with people in emerging markets.
  • Importance of leveraging the full spectrum of technology.
  • Data and analytics are equally vital.
  • Technology can spur job creation in emerging markets.
  • Scale matters.

GIS maps can help NGOs integrate and apply knowledge. The visual layout helps to synthesize information from lots of different sources for a comprehensive picture. It also is a tool to show donors the impact and scale of projects. – Esri

The ICT4D conference is a knowledge exchange. And NetHope provides visibility across the development sector to understand what solutions exist and facilitate collaboration. It offers us a continuation of the ICT conversation throughout the year. – Carol Bothwell, Chief Knowledge Officer, Catholic Relief Services

In emergencies, like the cyclone in Madagascar in Feb 2103, rapid data collection within 72 hours is critical. CRS Madagascar used iPod touches with iFormBuilder to quickly collect accurate data that could incorporate drawings, pictures, signatures and GPS. It cut data collection down from 3.5 weeks to 72 hours. However, for data collection to be successful, staff need to be trained to become comfortable with ICT devices. – Catholic Relief Services Madagascar


ICT (Information and Communication Technologies) can be sustaining or disruptive. Disruptive is what the Kindle did to the book industry. Being disruptive is difficult, but it helps you keep your eyes wide open to see what’s going on in the sector. We should look for disruptive opportunities to improve the way we work. — Trip Allport, Accenture Development Partners

Be willing to fail and kill off projects that don’t work. And don’t build an ICT pilot that’s not scalable. Invest heavily up front in a pilot to ensure that if it works, it’s going to scale. — Trip Allport, Accenture Development Partners

The poor are trapped in an informal financial economy because formal systems, like bank branches, were not built to include them. But now mobile money is changing the landscape of how banks do business in Africa. It’s not a one-hit wonder in Kenya. Seventy percent of providers are planning to increase their investments in mobile money in 2014. — Christopher Burns, USAID

In Africa, mobile money is enabling water, energy and other service providers the ability to provide services in rural areas. And the ability to pay for water through mobile money could lead to safe accessible water for the poor. — Claudia McKay, CGAP

While it seems like a simple task to transform a paper questionnaire into a digital form, it’s not. The level of detail, testing and customization is deep. For the CRS Malaria Indicator Survey, Technical Directors, Monitoring and Evaluation and IT specialists worked together to create a digital form that collected accurate and detailed data on a large scale. — Emily Bostick, Regional Technical Advisor, East Africa, Catholic Relief Services



For-profit companies need to learn to scale to meet the needs of emerging markets and nonprofits need to look at for-profit models. — Radhu Basu, iMerit and Santa Clara University

Citibank recognizes that it’s crucial for banks to conform to the needs of the aid sector. They also recognize three global trends of our time:

  • Globalization
  • Urbanization – concentration of people with gap growth in cities
  • Digitization – innovations and the countless efficiencies they create

An example of digitization in the banking industry is the use of mobile phones in Africa, where mobile banking is far more common than in many countries in Europe and the Americas.

Leverage SMS for commuting with youth. For example, in HIV prevalent areas, allow youth to ask questions via text about HIV, or use SMS to send HIV prevention tips. (UNICEF)

18.2 million customers in Kenya are on the mobile money platform M-pesa. 11.6 million are active monthly. Liquidity of M-pesa payments in remote areas like Dadaab, Kenya makes banking possible even though physical banks are more than 90 miles away.

Using iPads/tablets with iFormBuilder in the field for The Child Behind project allowed staff to collect data, which leads to improved programmatic decision-making and accurate measurement of results.



Catholic Relief Services (CRS) believes that using technology is the best way to help serve the poor and vulnerable. CRS also believes in open and free discussion to facilitate learning between organizations. — Michele Broemmelsiek, Vice President of Overseas Operations, Catholic Relief Services

Policy, infrastructure and sustainable partnerships are the roles government plays in ICT4D. — Dr. Fred Matiang’I, Cabinet Secretary for ICT, Kenya

Resilience is a set of skills we can build into programs to better cope with problems as they arise. We now have an infrastructure that wasn’t here in the past—everyone has a mobile phone. Everybody will soon be connected to the Internet, which provides us with a platform to communicate two ways with people to provide alerts, better services, help with education and health, etc. It provides us with a new way of communicating with vulnerable communities. — Shaun Ferris, Senior Advisor, Agriculture and Environment, Catholic Relief Services

Resilience also provides aid agencies with an opportunity to bring in a much different investor group. So it just won’t be a question of using public funds, it’s an avenue that will blend public funds, donor funds, private funds and investor funds. Business people will see how they can use the work that we’re doing to make a profit. Small-scale or large-scale commercial concerns will come into these systems to provide services to the bottom billion, and we will just be apart of that. — Shaun Ferris, Senior Advisor, Agriculture and Environment, Catholic Relief Services

CRS'Shaun Ferris speaks at the ICT4D conference in Nairobi, Kenya. Photo by Melissa Stevens/CRS

CRS’Shaun Ferris speaks at the ICT4D conference in Nairobi, Kenya. Photo by Melissa Stevens/CRS

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Most Popular Tweets at the ICT4D Conference, Day 1
What Exactly Is ICT4D? This Video Explains It Well

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