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Technology Transforming Aid

7 April 2020

Technology Transforming Aid

When government development agencies send aid abroad for girls’ education, they need to know it’s money well spent. Bellwood Prestbury client, Charlie Goldsmith Associates (CGA), are using technology to drive up transparency and effectiveness.

Encouraging more girls to access school in East Africa is a major development aim. It’s every child’s right to go to school. Nations whose population have had education opportunities are more likely to reduce poverty and develop peacefully and safely. Families are more likely to be self-sufficient and enjoy more diverse income possibilities. And individuals will have more fulfilling lives. 

Poverty is the greatest barrier of all 

But there are all kinds of barriers to girls' education. From prioritising domestic duties to safety concerns for girls being away from the family, traditions and cultural norms – or what look like them – can be hard to shift. 

Poverty is the greatest barrier of all. If you have no money, you can’t afford to pay school fees, buy uniforms or lose a free pair of hands in the fields. 

Development agencies know that sponsoring children to go to school – and even compensating the family for lost income – is a long-term win. But how do you know if the money is getting to the right families and if the children really attend? 

Using technology to ensure that money and services reach the poor 

Charlie Goldsmith Associates specialises in using technology to ensure that money and services reach the poor, joining up the development agencies with the people who need it most. 

Charlie Goldsmith, talking to us from Lusaka in Zambia, explains: “We use technology to create a real-time data flow, so everyone knows what is happening and what is being achieved. 

“So we identify the children and families in need, which is not always easy in places where there are no birth certificates. We create systems that log school enrolment and register attendance. We organise payment of funds to families whose children are in school. We set up processes to securely pay teacher salaries. And we gather the data and report back to donors so that they know their investment is having an impact.” 

Pushing up school attendance for girls 

And it works. Pupil numbers in South Sudan rose from under one million to 2.2 million between 2014 and 2019. And they have managed to push up enrolment for girls from less than 40% of total attendees to 46%. 

Charlie says: “People didn’t think we would be able to create a real-time data flow for 4,500 schools but we have managed that, and it has been transformative. International donors in Western economies can give funds with greater assurance. Schools can manage better, knowing they have reliable funding. We’re very grateful for the funders who support this work. In particular, UK AID and the Delegation of the European Union who have supported it in South Sudan. 

An ethical approach to development 

Charlie says this is part of an ethical approach to development that CGA employs right across Africa. 

"We aim to develop capacity everywhere we work..." 

“We work in South Sudan, Somalia, Malawi, Sierra Leone and more on a wide range of projects, using technology to improve efficiency and transparency. 

We aim to develop capacity everywhere we work too. Rather than flying pale, male and stale consultants long distances, we focus on local recruitment and empowerment. That helps the country to build its development capacity and reduces our own carbon footprint.” 

Flexible insurance as a backbone to working in difficult places 

“Our work takes us to some remote, austere and sometimes dangerous places,” Charlie says. “Having an agile insurance broker like Bellwood Prestbury on our side gives us support to operate. 

“When the shooting erupted around the Presidential Palace in South Sudan in July 2016, we wanted to relocate our people reasonably briskly. Having a broker willing to get involved and help make that happen is what we need. 

“Bellwood Prestbury also provides more specialist insurance like Director & Officers cover that gives us business protection we can rely on too.”

Charlie Goldsmith is the founder of Charlie Goldsmith Associates, which focuses on alleviating poverty and promoting human development.

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