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Monitoring and Evaluation in a Tech Enabled World

Inspired by the potential for technology-enabled tools to contribute to the evolution of the monitoring and evaluation (M&E) field, and by the information and communication technology (ICT) innovators we have met in the course of our work at the Rockefeller Foundation, we are pleased to provide financial support for this paper as part of a wider effort to promote innovation in evaluation.

The increasing complexity of development coupled with the widening range of public, not-for-profit and private sector actors and the demand for more timely feedback has challenged the utility of conventional approaches to monitoring and evaluation in many development contexts. Though emerging information and communication technologies offer the promise of including more voices in a more timely way than conventional methods, the methodological rigor of technology-enabled M&E has sometimes been questioned and viewed as unreliable in contemporary evaluation debates.

Despite great strides in the rapid adoption and proliferation of technology throughout the world, evaluation practice has remained largely paper-based. As a result, traditional evaluation methods
and approaches to learning, accountability and feedback have often not kept pace with the significant
advances in technology.

In spite of this broad reluctance, M&E innovators are already experimenting in this new space and harnessing the power of technology to confront both real-world evaluation constraints and fundamental methodological challenges. By reflecting on ways in which these innovators have begun to
navigate new territory, and by exploring the great potential for technology to further transform and advance traditional evaluation methods, this paper aims to highlight the current state of tech-enabled M&E while also maintaining a critical perspective which recognizes the limitations and inherent
risks which evaluators should remain mindful of when engaging in this new and exciting space.

In this paper, the authors highlight some of the ways that ICTs are helping overcome common M&E challenges, including “real-world” challenges and methodological and conceptual challenges. The
paper also offers ideas on untested areas where ICTs could play a role in evaluation, and an in-depth discussion of some of the new challenges, problems and risks that arise when incorporating ICTs into the M&E process as a whole. Finally, it offers a checklist for thinking through the incorporation of ICTs into M&E.

As we continue to explore and apply new technology in our work at the Rockefeller Foundation and to learn from M&E innovators, we hope that this initial landscaping of ICTs in M&E serves as a launching point for further discussion, learning and improved M&E practice, all in the service of better development outcomes for humanity.