2003 Global: ChildInfo — Consolidated Assessment Report
Author: UNICEF, NYHQ
UNICEF is committed to promoting and monitoring progress on the Medium Term Strategic Plan (MTSP) targets, the World Fit for Children (WFFC) and the Millennium Development Goals (MDG). The agency has extensive monitoring experience at both the national and global level, derived primarily from tracking progress through the 1990s on the World Summit for Children goals, including the development of relevant tools, such as the Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys.
With its monitoring experience, and with more than one-third of the 48 indicators for monitoring the MDGs directly related to children, UNICEF is uniquely placed to provide support to the UN system in monitoring the MDGs, and the Executive Director has recently made such an offer to the Secretary General.
At the same time, information on the scope, performance and relevance of ChildInfo, particularly in relation to its ability to function well in a worldwide monitoring system, was unknown. Given this situation, and the need to quickly resolve if ChildInfo could play a role in supporting the UN monitoring of the MDGs at country level, the Executive Director approved a rapid assessment of ChildInfo.
In order to facilitate the assessment of ChildInfo, the work was divided into four major components, which were subsequently reviewed together to provide an integrated set of findings and conclusions. The major components are as follows:
- Survey on use of ChildInfo at country level;
- Institutional assessment of Community Systems Foundation (CSF);
- Contractual assessment; and
- Technical evaluation of ChildInfo.
Findings and Conclusions:
Assessment of use of ChildInfo in country
The assessment of use of ChildInfo in country divides the use by UNICEF Country Office (CO), UN Country Team, Government, and other national groups. Although over 80 countries say they have ChildInfo, only a little over half (44) have developed a country database. More governments use ChildInfo than do UN Country Teams. Not surprisingly given the recent implementation of ChildInfo in most COs, its use is often limited to a small unit, such as the planning, monitoring and evaluation unit. Other sources, including a small phone survey of countries making more extensive use of ChildInfo, indicate that availability of experienced monitoring and evaluation (M&E) staff is a concern, particularly in smaller offices.
- 44 UNICEF Country Offices (27%) use ChildInfo, 40 more (25%) have initiated use
- 23 governments use ChildInfo
- Few staff use ChildInfo in Country Offices (CO) and the databases are small, mostly less than 4MBs
- Only 10 UN Country Teams use ChildInfo
- Effective use of ChildInfo limited in CO by resources, particularly expertise of M&E staff, also concern about additional demands that may be made through UN commitment
Institutional and contractual assessments
The institutional assessment describes a small non-profit NGO that has gone out of its way to develop and support use of ChildInfo at country level. CSF has had to use its own money to overcome delays in contracts and last minute changes by country offices of ChildInfo related tasks. The majority of total CSF funding comes from the ChildInfo contracts with UNICEF and the NGO operates with a very small staff, with software and help desk tasks contracted out to an Indian company. At the same time, CSF is very dependent on one person. If this person were incapacitated in some way, the support provided to ChildInfo by CSF would be severely affected. With this minimal infrastructure the capacity of CSF to meet major increases in ChildInfo work is problematic.
- Small NGO that has done good work and gone out of its way to develop and support use of ChildInfo at country level
- CSF very dependent on one person
- Depends on software company subcontract• UNICEF mechanism for contracting with CSF is problematic for both CSF and UNICEF
- Capacity of CSF to meet larger needs in use of ChildInfo is uncertain.
The technical assessment found ChildInfo works well within the present limited installed base. However, if it is to be used more widely, across UNICEF Country Offices, UN Country Teams, as well as in Government, changes need to be made to the software, help desk and ChildInfo support structures. For example, the software is individually customized for specific country users. This could be improved through the development of software modules that facilitate this change by others than CSF. Another example is the creation of a comprehensive training packages to support capacity building in use of ChildInfo.
- CI works well within present limited installed base, and is a software package that has met a demand for better organization and display of data at country level
- Wider use of CI will require changes, including:
- Indicator consistency/linking
- Front adaptation module
- Comprehensive training package
- Help desk
- Revision of manuals
- Data admin module
ChildInfo is performing well in its present context, but its wider deployment in the near future will require changes to the package and its support. CSF has provided good support in the development and use of ChildInfo and has shown considerable commitment in helping UNICEF implement ChildInfo at country level. But CSF's capacity to support the wider use of ChildInfo is a concern, which has to be resolved for the future; and contractual arrangements also need revision.
In moving forward, the scope of the work ahead needs to be clarified with UNICEF field offices, before discussion with UN agencies on the support of ChildInfo to be provided in relation to MDG monitoring. In parallel, UNICEF M&E capacity to meet monitoring challenges should be strengthened.
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