In developing countries, monitoring and evaluation, or M&E, as it is commonly known, has become critical across an array of fields. For small non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and educational institutions in Africa and elsewhere, establishing M&E tools and curriculums can be costly and challenging. M&E requires a significant amount of human and technical capacity, as well as essential technology, software, and hardware. It often takes years of training before an individual can become competent in all of the tools and processes necessary to develop effective M&E systems, analysis, and an overall adaptive management program.
One of the fastest growing tools in M&E is the creation of digital maps through the use of a Geographic Information System (GIS) and associated computer software. A GIS also serves as a perfect example of the challenges faced when trying to adopt and teach new technologies. For example, obtaining software licenses to use GIS alone can be extremely costly. Furthermore, many developing countries have an extremely limited number of professionals capable not only of effectively using GIS but, more importantly, teaching it to the next generation of M&E practitioners.
The purpose of the GIS for Development project is to overcome some of these challenges, beginning with a workshop for M&E and GIS across three key interrelated fields of public health, conservation, and land tenure. The longer-term vision of the initiative aims to replicate the workshop for larger and more diverse audiences not only in Tanzania but also in other countries in East Africa. Ultimately, GIS for Development should assist in training the M&E trainers and professionals of tomorrow. Finally, the initiative will also explore the intersection of health, conservation, and land tenure issues and seek to support organizations working on projects involving these issues in the field.
GIS for Development has already begun to work with a number of partners across these three fields first to assess their capacity in GIS and M&E, to discuss their M&E needs, and to establish genuine collaboration with far-reaching implications.