It can be tempting to apply the latest advancements in IT to rural villages just because the technology is available. However, if the technology is unnecessary or not targeted to specific needs, then it isn’t smart development. International development and humanitarian aid organization CHF International is building a better world by applying their mission and business logic to all aspects of their work.
Present in 26 countries, CHF outlines five best practices for implementing smart IT development in the communities that need it most.
Lead by need, not technology
“We should first understand the needs of our organization and our staff in the field and the underlying business processes,” says William L. Simpson II, vice-president for IT. “If we allow technology to be the driver of our business decisions, we will make poor and costly decisions. But if we allow ourselves to be business driven, we can source the best possible solution to the situation at hand.”
Share knowledge with partners who have expertise in these environments
CHF is working with other organizations that have experience in these environments. In particular, working within the NetHope consortium has allowed CHF to collaborate and expand upon existing technologies to better serve its populations. The NetHope consortium is made up of more than 25 leading international non-governmental organizations, all working to achieve higher levels of efficiency, quality and reach for their organizations’ programs.
“When bringing IT to all people is one of the world’s greatest challenges, it makes sense to learn from the experience of dozens of like-minded organizations who are facing the same challenges every day,” says Simpson.
Apply the same business logic to IT as all other aspects of development
CHF continually examines the case for new IT systems and technology from a business standpoint, looking at the potential return on investment and true cost in the long-term. When some experts estimate that the purchase price of a new technology is merely 10 to 15 per cent of the long-term cost, it makes sense to examine all details of new IT.
Why reinvent the wheel (or the microchip)?
CHF recognizes that development organizations rarely have the budgets of Fortune 500 companies. Instead, they must determine the best solution for their organization based on a variety of other factors. Most importantly, discovering what solutions already exist within the organization’s own global IT operations –whether that be leveraging present technologies or belonging to consortiums like NetHope – is key to preserving the resources of time and money.
Understand your field office needs
Different countries have different challenges. Maintaining close relationships with offices in the field is crucial as it leads to better understanding of the problem at-hand and the technologies needed to support a solution. CHF recently implemented a laboratory at its headquarters in Maryland that emulates real-life field conditions. This enables CHF to test technologies before deployment so as to ensure as much efficacy as possible.
In summary, lead by need, not by technology, and apply the same stringent business standards to IT as are applied to all other aspects of business. “In development,” Simpson II says, “we are all working toward a common goal – so work together.”