Updated: Criteria for Evaluating Digital Solutions

by | Mar 31, 2020 | ICT4D |

Over the past few days and many discussions, I’ve updated the criteria for offices and organisations to consider when evaluating digital solution offers. I share it below with the hope it helps you.

ICT and digital technologies enable more effective & efficient implementation, while also maintaining physical distance.  ICT and digital should be central in our approaches to implementing our COVID-19 Response.  However, while ICT and digital technologies can aid our response, we must be wise in how we use the data about the most vulnerable on the planet.  It is critical that our ethics must be at the forefront of our choices of what data to collect, how we use it, and with whom we share it. Below are criteria to to consider in deciding which ICT and Digital solutions to choose:

​1. Be clear on the purpose – Know what you are programmatically trying to accomplish (in as much detail as possible). Technology should never lead, it always should support the programme activities and outcomes.   ​

2. Avoid being a Guinea Pig – Too often the innovations and technology are unproven and we are being asked to be a test environment for them. This is almost always more work for you than it is worth and the people that benefit most are not the vulnerable you seek to serve, but the companies. However, the caveat here is that sometimes people come with tried and tested technology or ideas but have an innovative application. That situation may be worth exploring. ​

3. A solution already used by your organisation and known to staff will be easier to support, maintain, and manage than something new ​

4. Consider solution functionality – is it quick and easy to setup? does it come in multiple languages? does it work offline? is it open access/ open source?  Do the staff who will be using it, find its design easy to use (user centred design) ​

5. Long Term thinking – does the company behind the solution have a viable business model? i.e. are they still going to be around in 3 years or disappear? Will they survive this crisis? What happens if they don’t? What are the ongoing maintenance and support costs your organisation will need to pay for in the future?  Where will the funding come from to pay this? ​

6. Support – specifically, do they have local support available in the countries we work in or where we will be using the solution? ​

7. Solution and Data Security – is the solution secure? Has or can your organisation’s InfoSec done a quick security, privacy, and protection assessment of it? Where are the servers from the solutions?  Do you control the servers? ​

8. Data Access and Sharing – Do you control who has access to the data you collect, generate, analyse using the solution? Does the person about whom the data is?  Is there clear and robust data governance in place around the data created through this solution?  Does the vendor have any access to any data (including metadata and anonymised data) generated by us? (they should not) ​

9. Cost – initial and ongoing costs – is this clear? Are there existing preferential MNO agreements in place? ​

10. Change – what changes are required to our existing processes to benefit from this solution?  What are the staff capacity and skill requirements to use the solution?  What changes are required to our organisational culture to benefit and support this solution? ​

Bonus: If you need to build something new, build with other organisations, don’t walk alone.

There are still likely things missing, but the above list should give you enough to start a discussion. Again, make sure the discussion is with a diverse group of people.

Photo by K. Mitch Hodge

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