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Revolutionizing Our Programs with Technology

-By John Talieri, Senior Director of IT, Women for Women International

In the hands of the most marginalized women, technology can be a powerful catalyst for innovation and growth. At Women for Women International, we are leveraging the possibilities technology brings to enable women living in some of the world’s most difficult settings new opportunities to connect to the world and change it. 

Investing in Technology for Programs

As members of NetHope, we are working with our partners, our vendors, and grants from Microsoft and Cisco to lay the foundation for our ongoing programmatic technology investments.

RCI-Rwanda-Baseline
Tablet technology in Rwanda is helping
women gain access to new sources
of information.

For example, we recently streamlined our data collection process by introducing tablet technology in our country offices. Our original process included manual data collection in the field and manual data entry. This was highly inefficient, both in terms of time and cost spent. The process also limited the kinds and quality of data we could capture and use to demonstrate our impact.

With seed funding from Bloomberg Philanthropies, WfWI successfully piloted its first electronic data collection in Rwanda in September 2013.  Drawing on lessons learned from our partner Sustainable Harvest, our staff traveled to Kigali for two weeks to train and build the capacity of our Rwanda Country Office staff. Together, they integrated and tested the use of tablet computers as part of the routine data collection effort, collecting a total of 1,273 monitoring and evaluations forms that previously would have been completed by hand.

Improving Efficiency and Data Quality

Immediately, electronic data collection improved the efficiency and effectiveness of our data collection process. Manual steps in the process that used to take up significant time – such as scanning paper forms to send to headquarters, and linking participant photographs to their enrollment data – were eliminated. The length of time it took to collect forms from each participant was reduced.  Additionally, the controls that can be asserted through the electronic platform significantly improved data quality. Our country office staff now has more time to focus their efforts on implementing Women for Women International’s program. 

As we implement electronic data collection in the rest of our countries this year, we estimate the global rollout will allow us to improve staff efficiency by 4,112 hours (or 514 eight-hour workdays) per year and to save $150,000 annually in staffing, printing, and shipping costs.

A Tool for Learning

In addition to using tablets to collect monitoring and evaluation data, WfWI envisions tablets as a tool for our trainers to bring new education resources to the classroom. For example, we can have pre-loaded training videos available on the tablets for trainers and for participants in the program to gain advanced information about health, legal issues, agricultural techniques, or business skills. Tablets can also be used as teaching aids, especially in numeracy classes. This will improve the quality of our training program as WfWI will be able to ensure the curriculum content is delivered consistently and accurately and will enhance the knowledge and skills of trainers and participants. 

For our program participants, access to online training programs can help them to build and enhance their skills, enabling them to learn more advanced techniques in their chosen vocational skill. With this knowledge, women can expand the marketability of their products, or improve their farming practices to increase their yield.

Connecting Across the World

At Women for Women International, we have long understood the power of connecting women and forming social networks to help build peaceful societies. Technology can further empower networks of women, and help create platforms for transformational movements.  As a country rebuilds from a fragile state to a peaceful society, technology can accelerate the number of women voting and organizing community action, leading economic development, and running for office.  Women can also expand networks across countries. For example, Bosnian women can advise Congolese women on steps towards peace and reconciliation.  By creating a social movement of women who are bringing greater stability to their communities from the ground up, we can build an effective engine for peace through women’s leadership and empowerment.