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IDinsight — Impact Brief

Introduction

Public service delivery succeeds or fails based on the fidelity of its field execution. And execution critically depends on the capacity of frontline functionaries. It is an irony of our “age of data” that, despite acutely weak state capacity and the undoubted value of data in improving service delivery, frontline officials anywhere rarely use data as decision-support to directly improve the quality of execution. Instead information systems are designed top-down to help higher level officials monitor execution in the aggregate, which neither captures known success predictors of wicked development problems, nor issues of direct concern to ordinary citizens. Nano MIS seeks to address this problem, primarily by documenting a process which leads to the emergence of appropriate solution outputs – cheap, fast, and flexible IS systems – that empower and strengthen frontline officials.

Nano IS is a decision-support system for frontline officials to improve the quality of execution. It is a ‘process innovation’ that changes the approach to building information systems by using fast, cheap, and flexible design, concentrating on a limited number of priority outcomes, on issues immediately and directly relevant to citizens, and which emerges in a bottom-up manner reflecting the needs of frontline functionaries.

Use of GIF Funds

GIF provided IDinsight a grant of USD 230,000 to create a functioning Nano IS system and process for one chiefdom in Zambia assessing data needs, collecting primary data through lean enumeration techniques, developing relevant technology for the presentation of findings.

Objectives

Develop a fully functioning Nano Information System in accordance with the local need to improve public service delivery and demonstrate it successfully in a Chiefdom while generating and making available evidence and learning to scale the System and enable third-party replication.

Impact to Date

The pilot achieved the core objective – to develop and demonstrate Nano IS in one chiefdom, the Mukobela Chiefdom in the Namwala district Southern Province. Chief Mukobela reported that the data showed challenges that he and his team were not aware of, and the evidence helped the Chief take action and secure additional support for the chiefdom.

The pilot resulted in the development of a functional information system for the Mukobela Chiefdom in the Namwala district Southern Province. The IS system included information on a number of indicators on access to public services agreed in a consultative process with Chief Mukobela, including on proportion of households that drink treated water, distance to health and education facilities, child marriage, incidence of diarrheal diseases in children under five years of age, and other indicators. Chief Mukobela reported that the data showed challenges that he and his team were not aware of, and the evidence helped the Chief take action and secure additional support for the chiefdom, for example mobilising the community to make a contribution for the construction of a clinic in an underserved area.