Technology Salon

Maura O’Neill

Sponsored by

a discussion at the intersection of technology and development

More Tech Salons About Maura O’Neill

  • How USAID Could Learn – and Grow – from Failure

    Washington DC | By on June 22, 2011 | Comments Off on How USAID Could Learn – and Grow – from Failure

    I am Charles Kenny, and I spent part of yesterday at a United Nations Foundation meeting with Dr Maura O’Neill, Chief Innovation Officer at USAID.

    There was a lot of discussion of development applications using mobile phones (m-development) and how to do them better – things like interoperability and collecting models in an ‘m-app marketplace.’ And there was the usual back-and-forth between those who wanted to see more transformative projects where IT reformed whole agencies and ministries and those who thought that way madness (or at least obscene overruns) lay.

    But I thought the most interesting discussion was around learning from experience -particularly in an area where technology is evolving rapidly, so a robust evaluation may not be completed before the project itself looks as dated as an integrated rural development scheme or a structural adjustment loan. The randomized trial result suggesting limited evidence of educational spillovers from a distribution program of Nintendo 64’s might not carry too much weight for those wanting to hand out Wiis as part of a youth fitness program.