All Projects

Improving the selection and use of ICT tools for accountable governance

Engine room

Project type Research 

Country Kenya  South Africa 

Support £74,781

In partnership with The Network Society Lab, University of the Witwatersrand and Mtaani Initiative based at Pawa254
“Organisations’ lack of awareness of their own knowledge gaps, difficulties accessing relevant, impartial advice, and limited user research and trialling often prevent them from choosing tools effectively.” — The Engine Room
Start date
June 2014
End date
January 2016
Period: 20 months


How do transparency and accountability initiatives find, choose and implement information and communications technology (ICT) tools? Could choosing tools in a different way increase the chances that these initiatives achieve their goals?


Making All Voices Count is partnering with the engine room to better understand how ICTs can be used effectively for transparency and accountability initiatives.

This project explores how initiatives in South Africa and Kenya have chosen and implemented technology tools, and investigates whether standardized frameworks could help practitioners select more appropriate ICTs for their work.


The engine room investigates and supports the effective use of data and technology in advocacy. This involves a combination of applied research, generating evidence and providing direct strategic and material support to activists and organizations using data and technology in their work.


The project first produced a Tool Selection Assistant, that guides you through the process of making an effective technology tool choice, and offers six, basic rules of thumb for organisations deploying ICT for development:

  1. Map out what you need to know: at the very least include research on the issue you want to tool to address, the needs to the people you hope will use it and the digital tool options already available
  2. Think twice before you build: Look for existing tools that can do the job; building new technologies from scratch is complex and risky.
  3. Get a second opinion: Someone else has probably tried a similar approach before you…
  4. Always take it for a test drive: Trial the tool; it highlights problems and raises key questions early on
  5. Plan for failure: Don’t expect to get it right first time; budget time and money to make adjustments
  6. Stop and reflect on what you’re doing: Keep thinking about what is working, and what isn’t.

Engine room subsequently undertook user testing with organisations planning to use tech in transparency and accountabilty initiatives. The Tool Selection Assistant was redeveloped, and re-launched as Alidade - an online resource for organisations to find technology tools for social change projects.


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