If the tool fits… launching our research on how transparency and accountability initiatives choose technology tools

Tom Walker

Today, we’re launching our research into how transparency and accountability initiatives in Kenya and South Africa choose digital technology tools.

We’re publishing it all on this microsite: https://toolselect.theengineroom.org. To find out more about what’s in it, read on:


At the engine room, we often talk to organizations about where they might use technology in their projects. Often, questions about which technology tool they should use for a particular purpose come up early on.

For example:

Obviously, questions like these are only part of the picture. Generally speaking, we try to steer things towards big, overarching questions first – such as what could a new technology tool help you do that you couldn’t do before?

Still, this doesn’t mean that the decision of which tool to use is insignificant. An appropriate tool could significantly expand what that organization can do, while the wrong one could see an already stretched organization waste valuable time and resources. But beyond isolated anecdotes (like the ones above) and sets of case studies, there’s relatively little evidence on how organisations actually decide what tools to use in their work.

To make a start on collecting that evidence, we’ve been working on a research project with Mtaani Initiative at Pawa254 and the Network Society Lab at the University of the Witwatersrand. In mid-2015, we interviewed staff members from 38 Kenyan and South African organisations that had recently chosen a digital technology tool for a project related to transparency and accountability.

Less than a quarter were happy with the tool they had chosen.

Want to know why? We’re presenting the findings in a number of different ways:

  • A very short summary for people curious about the findings (online and as a small pdf)
  • The full research report (2.5MB pdf).
  • Six rules of thumb for choosing the right technology tool for you.
  • The Tool Selection Assistant, an online guide to help you choose a technology tool that asks step-by-step questions, gives examples from our research and links to resources (also on GitHub)
  • An online summary of our approach and methods.
  • We’ll also be publishing more blogs on specific aspects of the findings in the next few weeks – watch this space.

The project is supported by Making All Voices Count

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