Crowdsourcing for Development Insights in Madagascar

BY Hasina Rakotondrazafy | January 31, 2018|Comments 0

Madagascar is considered a biodiversity hotspot. Besides its majestic landscapes, this island country houses 5 percent of the world’s most unique species and plants. Known for its rich biological and ethnic diversity, the country hasn’t escaped the consequences of climate change.

Since 2016, the southern part of the country has been facing the impacts of a serious drought due to the climate phenomenon of El Nino. The critical situation of this region has led the UN to focus several of its interventions in this area, specially to work with young people.

Partnering with youth

Representing over 50 percent of the population in Madagascar, the UN recognizes that young people are a key pillar to drive the country’s development. Several UN agencies have been partnering and working with them for many years.

To monitor our work and enhance our accountability to the people we serve, we invited participants of our projects in the southern regions of the country to answer an important question: How are we doing?

With this basic question in mind, the UN in Madagascar engaged in a exciting exercise to collect their perceptions on our work in their respective localities and, even more important, collect ideas to improve the impact of UN future actions.

We specifically looked into the following projects supported by UNDP, UNFPA, UNICEF, FAO, IFAD, ILO, WFP and WHO. :

  • AINA: A project that aims to mitigate the effects of extreme poverty by reducing the number of vulnerable families experiencing acute malnutrition.
  • MIARO: Which focuses mainly on the prevention of chronic malnutrition during the first 1,000 days of the child.
  • Maison des Junes: Works with young people so that they can better express themselves and be agents of social change.
  • Ex-Juvi: Seeks to reintegrate young people that have been in conflict with the law.
  • MRPA: Helps protecting the environment while creating and capitalizing on human and natural resources to maintain sustainable development.

For this exercise, we partnered up with the Madagascar Innovation Lab, a young and dynamic group that designed, developed, and created a just-in-time analysis and collection tool called Integrated Data Processing (IDP).

The Madagascar Innovation Lab, which is creating job opportunities for young minds alike, has a staff made up of 50 percent women and people with backgrounds ranging from machine learning experts to business analysts that work together on many innovative projects, including ours!

Gather, upload, sync and repeat

To provide reliable, consistent and accurate data in a timely manner, the Lab developed a  mobile application which allows the data collection agents to upload the information. We also developed a website to make available all the collected data

Data collection practices have been a vital part of the life cycle of development projects for decades, however, traditional paper based data collection can be a daunting task as it tends to take several months to combine the process of data collection until conclusions in reporting can be reached. This can ultimately alter the decision-making process and could potentially affect getting a project off the ground.

With this new project that we are testing, using tablets or mobile phones allows the agents to expedite the data collection process. The application can hold an unlimited amount of surveys and questionnaires written in any language, categorized by indicators, demographics, and other specifications. How cool is that!  

Initial results

During the last months of 2017, we conducted our data collection in the south part of Madagascar with the help of 80 volunteers from two youth centers supported by the UN. The exercise involved four major regions, four cities, and eight districts, reaching more than 17,500 people. During the data collection, our volunteers informed participants about the initiative and how the results will be used.

Much of this southern region is located in remote areas, only accessible by jeeps with a 4-wheel drive, motorcycle, or on foot, therefore getting there can be an adventure. So, to prepare for our data collection process, the agents are equipped with solar panels and power banks, which ensure they always have access to power supply. For the most part, Madagascar has managed to provide phone and data coverage to large areas of the island, so even from the remotest locations, our agents are able to sync the data on a daily basis.

This has allowed our information and communication technologies to be fully functional from almost everywhere. Month’s worth of data can be mined and analyzed in an instant which allows us to gain access to information on various social, economical and environmental aspects of life in Madagascar.

Making use of the data

Our next immediate step will be to analyze the data to adjust our future actions based on the needs expressed by the participants during the survey. While we embark on full data analysis exercise, we have already made available to the general public the data regarding the participant’s opinions on each the projects and their ideas on how they could expand to support communities in new ways.

We are excited to know how to better serve these regions, often left behind by key development interventions. From a coordination point of view, we are interested in looking at the data with an integrated approach to identify new joint initiatives where UN agencies can partner – an essential ask from the 2030 Agenda.

We are also planning to use the data to review or UN Development Assistance Framework, but a quick win will be its use by the two youth centers supported by us that helped with this exercise: more activities related to young people’s concerns like drugs, alcohol, employment, professional training, early pregnancy, corruption, could be added to their interventions…  And this is just the beginning!

We know from reflections on collective intelligence work that most often the missed step is going back to the people who are consulted to show them how their opinions and ideas will be put to use. We are already planning some activities to close the feedback loop. You will hear more about that adventure in our next installment!

Photo: MIL team photos taken by BLU Life One X2 phones.


Hasina Rakotondrazafy Hasina is Coordination Specialist at the UN Resident Coordinator Office for Madagascar. You can follow the UN in Madagascar on Twitter.

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