In my humble opinion, it is wonderful to have so many ICT4D projects to look out for. Most of these projects have good intentions and goals, BUT it seems there is a clear problem (as many of my classmates have identified below) with identifying and admitting that ICT4D projects have failed. Oscar Night Syndrome has taken over the ICT4D sphere, instilling a false hope that all ICT4D projects are successful and beneficial to the communities in which they are implemented. This syndrome creates pressure to always make ICT4D projects look good, even though sometimes failure is obvious. I read an interesting article on ICTworks about the Oscar Night Syndrome and how exactly to begin confronting failure. One problem is the lack of implementation of M&E (monitoring and evaluation). The article suggested 4 ways to improve upon M&E. These included:
- Qualitative Analysis
- Common Standards
- Implementation Evaluations
All four suggestions could possibly begin to change the ICT4D culture of hiding failure. Quasi-experiments (experiments lacking the random assignment to a control group) would be a lower cost way to perform experiments while still collecting data about the success of the ever changing technologies implemented. These experiments in general would ensure that the outcomes of ICT4D projects were measured not only during the project implementation but also in years after. Another way to ensure this data is measured and evaluated is by emphasizing the use of quantitative AND qualitative data collection. Yes, quantitative data is helpful, BUT many times qualitative data gets to the root of the projects, finding the true impact the project has made on the recipients. This data can be collected in a variety of ways, including focus groups, observation, and even social network sites.
In order to improve upon these first two categories, the language and standards of M&E must also be clarified. The measurements of success and failure must be quantified in some way in order to show the success of a specific project. The article goes further to suggest the possibility of an M&E framework that could create a comparison of different projects and their success and effectiveness. Finally, the article suggests an implementation evaluation. This would allow the ICT4D project developers to see their projects’ implementations alongside their peers’. It would create an opportunity to learn from others’ mistakes in implementing their projects.
I believe all of these strategies for improving M&E would help ICT4D as a whole by removing the stigma from failure. If project failures continue to be swept under the rug, the same mistakes will keep being made over and over again. M&E will help ensure that project failures are pointed out and the Oscar Night Syndrome looses prevalence in the ICT4D sphere.