By @SocialWellNet

How open data from NGOs can radically change the way we do international development

Donors and NGOs should start thinking digitizing their program data and making it public.

First, it was the private sector which embraced technologies to ensure its customers get access to consistent and uniform products everywhere. Yes, there were problems for private sector too. There wasn’t enough money. Technologies often failed.

On top of it all, staffs were not too happy about it. Looking at banking, insurance, real estate, travel industries today, nobody could even imagine the level of pain and difficulties private industries have endured automating their businesses.

Then governments worldwide started experimenting with digitizing their processes. Although the specialized functions like census and weather forecasting services were long using computers, governments have not really tried their hands to digitize public facing services till the late 1990s.

In the US, website went live in September 2000. In the early years, there were immense challenges and failures in digitization efforts by the government agencies. Still, more than ever government services today are online, notably in the developing countries.

Data digitization has remained largely elusive in international development.

But international NGOs and their national counterparts who are undoubtedly the principal actors of international development are largely unaffected by this movement. Many NGOs today have websites. Web has been their preferred tool for advocacy and communications.

If we consider public and private sectors, web is more than just a marketing tool. Understandably, NGOs can’t offer their products and services over web or mobile application, as their target beneficiaries are unable to access such services, at least in the developing countries. What international and national NGOs could do at least is to make their program data available in public.

Read the full article in Medium.

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By @SocialWellNet

What are the key takeaways from evaluations of India’s Mother and Child Tracking System?

By @GaraiAtanu

When India introduced the Mother and Child Tracking System as national MIS for its maternal and child health program in December 2009, most states were running their own MIS applications. Several states like Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Rajasthan, and others were running for more than 5 years.

In its initial years, states heavily inflated data they reported in MCTS to showcase their performance in MCH programs. District units started reporting exaggerated figures especially towards the end of the financial year, in the month of March. Even within the government health administration, few relied upon MCTS data for program monitoring. Roll out of MCTS across India took almost 4 years, from 2010 to 2013.

MCTS is a name-based tracking system which capture information on maternal and child health. I did a review of MCTS back in 2012 when it was capturing following key data points(1):

Pregnant Women

  • Location details (state, district, block, address)
  • Identification details (Name, date of birth, phone, Janani Suraksha Yojana, caste)
  • Health provider details (HSC, ANM, ASHA, linked facility for delivery)
  • ANC details (LMP, ANC dates, TT, IFA, anemia, complications)
  • Pregnancy outcome (place, delivery date, JSY benefits)
  • PNC details (dates)
  • Infant details


  • Location details (state, district, block, address)
  • Identification details (Name, date of birth, phone, Janani Suraksha Yojana, caste)
  • Health Provider details (HSC, ANM, ASHA)
  • Immunization details (Dates for BCG, OPV, DPT, hepatitis, measles, MR Vitamin A)

In our visits to a number of health centers and focus group discussions with providers, we found a delay in submission of data, as much as 2 to 3 months. Evidently, with such delays, health services may not be benefitted from a name-based tracking system such as MCTS.

Public Health Foundation of India evaluated MCTS around the same time in Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh, using data quality assessment (DQA) method to evaluate data quality, along with an assessment survey for assessing implementation challenges(2). The assessment found that data was mostly incomplete – beneficiary profile was mostly incomplete in Rajasthan and beneficiaries were excluded in Uttar Pradesh.

While Rajasthan had registered all sampled women and 85% of sampled children registered in MCTS, their profiles were 64% complete. In comparison, MCTS in Uttar Pradesh excluded 21% of sampled pregnant women and 43% of sample children. Profile data in Uttar Pradesh were 38% complete for women and 56% for children. The study underlined several causes that contribute to these limitations in data quality:

  • Suboptimal field level data collection,
  • Consolidation and transfer processes,
  • Inconsistent training levels for health staff, and
  • Lack of clear monitoring and supervision guidelines.

Besides, the study highlighted limitations in human resources, connectivity, and power supply challenged a smooth implementation.

Another study conducted during September 2013 – March 2014 in Haryana emphasized upon same infrastructural challenges that were experienced in 2009 (3). The study, in addition, reported an interesting observation on the reach and usage of SMS that MCTS generates based on the profile and transactional data entered in the system. The study found that only 18% of the beneficiaries reported to have received SMS while only 6% could understand the content in those SMS.

We can conclude this discussion from these 5 key takeaways:

  1. While MCTS has brought uniformity in MCH indicators and reporting across India, we need significant improvements in timeliness and completeness in data reporting through MCTS portal.
  2. Though MCTS has been in existence for more than 7 years now, we are still fixated in making data input work. As a result, health providers and beneficiaries have never truly experienced the benefits of having an effective name-based tracking system.
  3. There have been significant public investments in human resources (data entry and analysis), connectivity, and infrastructure built at district and block levels for smooth implementation of MCTS. This calls for a cost-effectiveness analysis with an alternate technology strategy such as using mHealth.
  4. Both reach and usage of SMS that MCTS broadcasts need rigorous evaluation. Most programs designed to provide customized reminders and motivational messages have adopted voice calls. We must take a hard look at this strategy before sending millions of messages.
  5. MCH is one area where thousands of NGOs and innovators are working in India and globally. Both operationally and technologically, MCTS offers little scope to these agencies either to leverage its data in their work or to contribute data to MCTS.


  1. Delivery quality health, nutrition, and WASH in Uttar Pradesh: An ICT strategy recommendation for 2013-2017 (unpublished report prepared by Garai, Atanu).
  2. Gera, Rajeev et al. “An in-Depth Assessment of India’s Mother and Child Tracking System (MCTS) in Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh.” BMC Health Services Research 15 (2015): 315. PMC. Web. 17 Feb. 2017.
  3. Nagarajan P, Tripathy JP, Goel S. Is mother and child tracking system (MCTS) on the right track? An experience from a northern state of India. Indian J Public Health. 2016 Jan-Mar;60(1):34-9.

By @SocialWellNet

APESEK and SocialWell Awarded Grant by FIRE Africa to Enhance Access to GBV Data

FIRE Africa, an innovation program to promote access to ICTs in Africa, has today named APESEK to lead a project along with SocialWell to develop a data portal on gender based violence (GBV) in Rwanda.

APESEK and SocialWell will engage a team of experts in GBV, gender data, and data analytics to build capacity among the state and civil society institutions in Rwanda in creating a GBV data portal “Rwanda GBV Monitor.” Rwanda GBV Monitor emphasizes upon improving accountability and governance among those institutions.

“Our team will seek to partner and work with various institutions of the Government of Rwanda at local and national levels, besides taking inputs from the NGOs working in the field of police, justice, and women empowerment”, said Emmanuel Nyandwi, Director of APESEK.
Noting that stopping violence against girls and women is central to the SDGs, Atanu Garai, CEO of SocialWell said, “the FIRE African grant provides us an opportunity to use data in improving institutional accountability towards the victims of GBV.”

When implemented, “Rwanda GBV Monitor” will be first of its kind not only in Rwanda, but also in the East Africa region.
“In a sense, the project will strengthen our common resolve to strengthen Rwanda’s effort to fight GBV”, said Nyandwi.

About APESEK: Founded in 2002, APESEK is an NGO based in Rwanda promoting well-being of orphan and vulnerable. APESEK has designed and implemented large scale GBV projects in Rwanda.

About SocialWell: Established in early 2016, SocialWell ( is a social enterprise that brings ICT driven innovations and sustainable business models in social and public sectors. SocialWell implements web, data-driven, and mobile solutions in areas of maternal and child health (MCH) and gender based violence (GBV) in Asia and Africa.

Emmanuel Nyandwi

How open data from NGOs can radically change the way we do international development
What are the key takeaways from evaluations of India’s Mother and Child Tracking System?
APESEK and SocialWell Awarded Grant by FIRE Africa to Enhance Access to GBV Data