Page 7


Reflection: Technology

Should Technology Inform Social Policy, or Social Policy Guide Technology? - Bruce Meraviglia , Technology & Marketing Editor [ Microfinance Focus ]


he answer to the questions above is “Yes!” Since the beginning of mankind’s invention of new technologies, and new ways of using those technologies, the debate as to whether social policy should guide (or constrain) the development of technology, or whether technology should be created independently of social policy, with the outcome then informing those who create social policy as to what is possible, has raged back and forth. With the movement to create a Social Performance Management (SPM) standard gaining momentum, the issue of technology once again comes into play. While the creation of an industry standard set of SPM reports and criteria is both worthwhile and highly desirable, a key question becomes what will be the role of technology in this new set of processes? Any reporting standard, such as SPM, creates new processes that start with data collection, then analysis, reporting, and, finally, feedback for corrective actions or strategies. As the amount of data for any reporting standard such as SPM will only increase over time, shouldn’t proper consideration be given at the beginning as to how this data will be collected, analyzed, and reported? Shouldn’t there be considerations of how the data, and summarized information, is communicated to other organizations, and generally made available to those who have an interest in it? The use of spreadsheet software (most notably Microsoft’s Excel spreadsheet application) is widely used in virtually every banking institution with any computer support for data analysis and reporting. However, spreadsheets are not always the appropriate application for consolidating data from multiple organizations, providing suitable mechanisms for that data to be summarized, or making that data accessible to others. Although the spreadsheet may be appropriate for local use within each MFI (and cost effective for use within the MFI), if we are going to focus not just on the performance of a single MFI, in the absence of any industry benchmarks, but rather the performance of a single MFI taken in context of how the entire industry is performing, either within a specific country, region, or globally, then we need to discuss a different type of applica-

Microfinance Focus [ April 2009 ] 7

Microfinance Focus April issue 2009  

A Global Magazine on Microfinance and Sustainable Development