Logistics of CT Implementation

Technology and cash transfers

Advanced technologies have the potential to improve efficiencies in CTs, especially in the areas of registration, transfer payment, and program monitoring. However, program policymakers and planners must be careful not to be dazzled by high-tech approaches. Drawbacks of each type of technology must be carefully assessed. Building on existing infrastructures of established systems with national coverage, such as postal banks, should still be considered.

Biometric systems and smartcards hold promise for SSA CTs

Biometric Systems SSABiometric systems using fingerprinting are being used to improve registration and identification of beneficiaries in some SSA CTs. They also add security and checks against fraud in registration and payment processes.

Technology is also being tested to improve distribution of payments in remote, hard-to-access environments or in situations where the beneficiaries’ location may change over time. This is important for a program such as Kenya’s Hunger Safety Net Program, where nomadic beneficiaries use smartcards and biometric identification to retrieve benefits from locations of their choice (Hunger Safety Net Program).

Mobile phone technology has multiple uses in CTs

mobie phone technology The fast-expanding coverage of cell phone systems throughout much of the African continent may allow mobile phone technology to be used in CTs. Nigeria’s Kano CCT for Girls’ Education will test how mobile phones can be used in a limited capacity environment for distributing transfers and for sending messages to beneficiaries (Gerelle 2009). Fieldworkers also use mobile phones to request a class register and record girls’ school attendance for monitoring purposes. When mobile networks are unavailable, data is stored on the phone until reception is available and the information is transmitted (Mobile Researcher 2011b).

Mobile phones may also be used to conduct research. For instance, “mobile researcher technology” allows smart phones to be used to conduct household surveys. The technology is able to walk enumerators through complex skip and repeat patterns one question at a time, immediately noting data inconsistencies and reducing data entry errors. Collected data can be sent in real-time to a central information system, and communication between central offices and enumerators allows problems to be addressed as they occur. No data entry personnel are needed, and survey data can be immediately exported and analyzed. The controls in the system improve data integrity, as there is a clear record of who has dealt with and altered data. Phones can be used to take pictures of survey respondents and record GPS locations of households to discourage ghost respondents. This technology allows for a 40% reduction in required supervision staff. Costs of the technology include the phones (less than US$ 200), data transfer costs, and training and payment of enumerators and supervisors (Mobile Researcher 2011a). Mobile researcher technology has already been used in multiple countries in SSA.

Web-based MIS may prove useful

web based MISCT officials with Internet access may also benefit from the use of web-based management information systems (MIS). Web-based MIS let officials access a single system from decentralized locations, allowing for more up-to-date record keeping and facilitating communication and the transmission of data among program offices. In this way, central offices can stay better apprised of field-level implementation.

Technology adoption depends on appropriate infrastructure, training, and communication

training-communicationAs with the introduction of new technologies anywhere, key issues affecting willingness to adopt are ease of use and comfort with the modality. Adoption of new technologies depends on well-designed training that addresses all obstacles to proper utilization by the specific beneficiary group. In the case of refusals to adopt, it is wise to look into what those who introduced the technology did (or failed to do) in communicating it.

It is important that program officials using sophisticated technology have reliable access to technical assistance and support for problem solving when inevitable glitches and problems arise. This is especially important when officials have little experience with the technology, and they are working in a low-capacity environment. The need for this support was noted for Ethiopia’s PSNP (World Bank 2010c). Without this necessary technical assistance, technology can become more of a hindrance than an enabling force.

Some technologies are not always appropriate

appropriate technologyIn considering such innovative approaches, program managers must also keep in mind that a technology that is appropriate in some settings may prove inappropriate in others. A small CT in Malawi known as Dowa Emergency Cash Transfers, or DECT, encountered many difficulties while trying to use a distribution mechanism very similar to the one being used in Kenya’s HSNP. These difficulties stemmed from poor coverage of the appropriate cell phone network (Global System for Mobile Communications, or GSM), and lack of compatible sites to retrieve cash. Rather than improving accessibility, the technology actually made it harder for beneficiaries to retrieve transfers (Langhan et al. 2008).