The Digital Agency for International Development

Bond 2013: measuring what matters with ICTs

By George Flatters on 12 November 2013

On 5th November, Aptivate exhibited at the Bond 2013 event – the annual get-together of the UK's international development / NGO community. The title of the conference was the shock of the new: bringing innovation back to development. While everyone was talking about technology, there was a demand for more specific sessions on ICTs.

From Theo Sowa on the impact of mobiles in development in her opening address, to Eleanor Harrison 's afternoon session in which she encouraged the use of open-source software tools for fundraising, we felt right at home! But I wanted to hear more about these tools and see them in action.

Many people I spoke to were keen to learn more about the application of ICTs to monitoring and evaluation (M&E). We are being asked to develop more and more web-based M&E systems so the sessions on measuring what matters were of real interest. 

Dan Jones from Christian Aid told us how his organisation measures “value for money”, which can be boiled down to a fairly simple formula:



People affected x significance

of change x level of exclusion

I like that this is elegant and easy to understand. And easy to build into a computer system as long as you can quantify “significance of change” and “level of exclusion” in some way, where-in lies the art in any such approach – as Dan emphasised, M&E systems can only support, not replace managerial judgement.

Later in the day DFID's Rachel Grant showcased Development Tracker, which provides a nice web-based interface to data about the UK's aid spending. I really love the design – so clear and simple.

Between Dan's practical exposition of measuring what matters and Rachel's demonstration of a big data aggregation tool, it was apparent to me that some issues went unaddressed by the event programme: how do NGOs collect and store data to feed these initiatives? And what's in it for them?

At our stand, people were telling us the same thing. Of the three questions we were asking attendees at the event, we got the biggest response when we asked: is your M&E system a help or a hindrance? Many people were asking about what ICT tools they can use for M&E. Sharing information on these would have formed a useful session for the event... perhaps in the future?

We got a fantastic reaction when we demonstrated our web-based Log Frame monitoring tool (codenamed "Alfie" - Aptivate Log Frame... I-something, E-something). We started developing this as an open source project because we think it will fill a massive gap. We are bringing together a group of partners, clients and funders to take it further – and we found a few new friends at the Bond event. We will be back!