I was just sent the link to this blog post on RTM. For a long time we have tried and piloted technology driven ‘real time’ systems for monitoring. SMS monitoring has been around for some time now for example, so have electronic systems in health clinics etc. that feed big monitoring databases. Is this going to fix the issues of monitoring in general – i.e. poor data quality, insufficient frequency etc. At least it should fix the timeliness of data collection, right ? But is it going to help with all the other issues ? Will it encourage better monitoring practice ?
Granted, we need electronic systems, quantitative methods and statistics skills to process data, but the basic human skill of observation (look and listen) is still the most important on the ground – and is so often not used to its full potential. In that respect, real time monitoring definitely leaves a gap – that of someone ‘checking things out’ which is always much more powerful than just collecting data. We need both, and we need to stop treating monitoring as primarily being a data problem – data are part of it, and needed, but nothing can ever replace simple observation.