Saving Steps: Innovative Tech Solutions

Photo by Michael Stulman/CRS

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Sometimes extremely complex technology can solve the most basic problems—like how far someone has to walk to get nutritious food.

As a result of political and economic instability and natural disasters, about 92% of Madagascar’s population lives in poverty, and 57% in extreme poverty. CRS and our partners provide food rations to 90,480 women and children through the Fararano project.

CRS field staff register beneficiaries for programs using mobile devices.
CRS field staff register beneficiaries for programs using mobile devices. Photo by Heidi Yanulis for CRS

Most of the people who benefit from food programs travel by foot to receive their rations. Rough terrain and poor infrastructure meant some had to walk unacceptably long distances.

CRS applied geospatial analysis to the Fararano project to reduce walking distances to distribution sites. Field agents captured the GPS coordinates of beneficiaries’ homes while registering them on mobile devices. Geographic information systems software then analyzed the local topography and GPS coordinates to map out the most likely footpaths and walking times. Based on this analysis, the program adjusted the locations of existing and future distribution sites.

Early results indicate the average walking time has been reduced by 50% or more, freeing up beneficiaries for other productive activities. We will continue to analyze the data, and fully expect the shorter walk times to result in greater program participation.

Transforming innovation into impact

Catholic Relief Services is committed to developing digital solutions that improve the quality of programs for beneficiaries. We have three strategic objectives for Information and Communications Technology for Development (ICT4D):
  • Effectively and efficiently integrate ICT4D through
    • clear roles and responsibilities
    • rigorous assessment of results
    • increased staff capacity to use ICT4D
  • Apply digital services to our signature program areas of agriculture, health and emergency response
  • Develop and implement systems that enable accurate decision making


Tags: ICT4D