Employee Spotlight: Senior Program Manager Abigail Wilson
Abigail Wilson, CAMRIS’s Senior Program Manager for the Mali Education Emergency Support Activity (EESA), discusses how information and communication technology (ICT) and monitoring systems are being used for development in Mali. The interview was conducted in August 2017.
Q: How does CAMRIS leverage information and communication technology (ICT) for development in Mali?
A: Through the Education Emergency Support Activity (EESA), CAMRIS is using mobile technology to share information with communities in northern Mali. Mali suffered a coup d’état in 2012, and its already weak communications infrastructure in the north took another blow. Since then, due to active fighting between the military and jihadist groups, some areas of northern Mali have become even more isolated. The EESA program’s goal is to contribute to increasing equitable access to basic education in the conflict-affected regions of Mali. By using mobile technology, and specifically SMS, CAMRIS is collecting valuable information about the status of schools, teachers, parent-teacher groups, and student enrollment quickly and efficiently. This data has been used to design the program to ensure we reach the communities with the greatest need.
The EESA project also is using ICT to send information to citizens in northern Mali through the “3-2-1 service.” This service sends subscribers free SMS messages in multiple local languages with helpful information about education, water and sanitation, and gender inclusion.
Q: CAMRIS works in difficult-to-access regions in Mali where there is no Internet. How does CAMRIS successfully collect and disseminate information in these regions?
A: Indeed! The primary forms of information sharing in these regions is radio and mobile phone. The internet connection in Mali, even in urban areas around Bamako, is unreliable so the EESA project relies on somewhat “old fashioned” tools, such as text messages (SMS) that are relatively small and penetrate a wider coverage area than the internet. People can send and receive these messages with their hand-held mobile phones, which are ubiquitous in Mali.
Q: What makes CAMRIS’s ICT and monitoring and evaluation (M&E) systems innovative?
A: CAMRIS’ Community Mobilization Officers use mobile technology in their daily work all over northern Mali, whether it’s collecting information on schools in need of repair, or developing messages to send via SMS about proper handwashing. The EESA project has relied upon its’ ICT tools to conduct its baseline needs assessments at the beginning of the project and the 50 Community Mobilization Officers continue to collect data on their communities for regular M&E. Thanks to these tools, EESA has been able to work effectively across a vast expanse of the Sahel.
Q: How is CAMRIS measuring the program’s progress?
A: CAMRIS is tracking progress on this program by regularly measuring and reporting upon its indicators. This monitoring process relies upon the ICT platform. CAMRIS has successfully been able to track progress across all regions in northern Mali on a monthly basis, allowing us to measure results and adjust the program when necessary. The 3-2-1 service recently became live and is available now to Malian citizens. CAMRIS has also been supporting the Ministry of Education and its decentralized offices in the usage of EMIS (Education Management Information System) that is the standard for education data collection in West Africa, developed by UNESCO.
Q: Is there anything else you would like to add?
A: I am proud to be part of this innovative project that is bringing primary education back to northern Mali. EESA’s reach has been expanded greatly through the creative use of basic ICT tools that are available to everyday citizens. I am hopeful that through this work, Malians will be equipped to build the foundations for lasting peace in northern Mali, and that children will be well prepared for the challenges and opportunities of the future.