When Kenyan NGO, I Choose Life – Africa (ICL), registered in 2004, its mission was to provide a globally competitive education, training, research and innovation system for sustainable development. Working across the four pillars of Jiimarishe (health), Jiinue (economic development), Jielimishe (academic and career mentorship) and Jiongoze (leadership and governance), ICL has made significant inroads in designing interventions to solve problems in various communities across Nairobi, Laikipia, Mombasa and Meru.
However, the NGO was using traditional modes of programme management, which were capital heavy and required more resources to deal with administration than actual intervention. That is until it received a grant from Microsoft, which enabled it to begin using Azure, and online storage and app hosting.
“We immediately saw a reduction in our operations costs, while our efficiency, reach and impact increased. We are also now able to use real-time data for decision making at various levels,” says ICL CEO, Mike Mutungi.
Using biometrics to track school attendance
The organisation has also used biometric tools offered by Azure in its unique approach to incorporating technology in tracking school attendance.
Despite a significant investment by government, Kenya’s education system still faces certain challenges. A lack of Unique Personal Identification (UPI) and reliable, timely data makes it difficult to track the total number of learners in the education system, as well as their attendance and academic progression. Simultaneously, a weak school management system leads to inadequate teacher performance monitoring and a lack of engagement between parents and teachers.
To address these issues, ICL developed the Biometric Student Information Management System (BioSIM). This is a real-time web and mobile application-based School Information Management System, which automates, simplifies and enhances student and school management, governance and accountability in education for Kenya’s sustainable development.
BioSIM has been deployed in more than 100 schools across Kenya, and all 100,000 students in Laikipia County have been mapped and tracked to allow the Ministry of Education to automate its evaluation of schools and move from paper-based to digital reporting.
Freeing up resources to tackle bigger issues
“Our staff members have always needed to visit the schools we work with on a weekly basis. They collect and collate attendance data, which was at times inaccurate or inconsistent with no way of verifying it. After using Azure to build BioSIM, it’s now possible for us to collect real and accurate data about learners, including those with disabilities. This addresses one of the key challenges around achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, which is a lack of reliable data to be able to make informed decisions and take action that has a real impact,” comments Mutungi.
ICL has seen a 60% reduction in travel costs of its staff members having to regularly visit schools in remote locations, to collect the necessary data. With this cost saving, the organisation is better placed to manage support activities, such as working with community mobilisers to reach out to families when learners drop out of school. It is also engaging with the Ministry of Education in this transformative process and looking to further upscale the project.
Beyond BioSIM, ICL is also exploring ways to use big data from the cloud to make decisions that could improve its operations and allow the organisation to better serve its community.
“Azure is a great tool for NGOs like us because it is open and flexible, easy to deploy, works across platforms and allows for offline mode while working in areas without a reliable connection,” says Mutungi. “It has allowed us to take an important step forward in achieving our mission of designing interventions that solve real community problems.”
Azure offers an integrated suite of cloud services – analytics, computing, web and mobile apps, networking, storage, and more – to empower your nonprofit organisation to achieve more – more insight, more efficiency and more impact.
For more information, visit https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/philanthropies/product-donations/products/azure