Empowering USAID Missions with Tailored Data Services: A Close Look at DevTech’s Support in Zimbabwe 

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USAID Missions deal with data every day, from primary data such as budgets and programmatic indicators to third-party country context data that inform policy and program strategies.  Under the Analytics, Data, Visualization, and Information Services (ADVISE) contract for USAID Data Services, DevTech Systems, Inc. offers Mission Support Packages that provide tailored support and respond to the unique data needs of various Missions. These packages focus on three main areas: data management guidance, context and foreign assistance data support, and building a data-driven culture. As part of one such package, after an iterative process to assess the needs of the USAID Zimbabwe Mission, four DevTech employees traveled to Harare from March 3rd to 8th to hold a data literacy workshop for USAID staff and implementing partners.  

Over the course of five days, Margaret Richards, Shannon Smith, Jeff Schlandt, and Sarah Cole led eight presentations, six workshops, and six flex sessions and individual working sessions helping attendees from the Mission and implementing partners strengthen their data skills. The presentations and workshops focused on four parts of the data lifecycle (cleaning, analysis, visualization, and communication), and the facilitators led participants in presentations and workshops in each aspect at both the beginner and intermediate level. This core curriculum centered on building skills and critical thinking; incorporating equity and accessibility; thinking about data quality, bias, and usability; and using data for decision making. The facilitators worked with participants to travel through the data lifecycle using two different datasets: the GSMA Mobile Connectivity Index, focusing on mobile connectivity scores in countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, and Afrobarometer’s Zimbabwe survey, which measures attitudes on democracy, governance, and the economy. Participants were especially engaged in learning new tools and tricks in Excel; creating visualizations; and applying data management planning and communications tools. By the end of the sessions, they were able to clean and analyze country-specific data, as well as produce visualizations and better understand how to analyze data sources and structures. 

Each facilitator brought a different set of skills and expertise, which allowed DevTech to host smaller sessions diving deeper into the individual needs of Mission staff. In addition to the core curriculum, the Mission was also able to choose some “flex sessions” that provided a deeper dive into Data Services products and tools that would be especially helpful. For the USAID Zimbabwe Mission, these included diving into technical details of using the Development Data Library (DDL) and the Development Experience Clearinghouse (DEC), as well as highlighting the country context data available on the International Data & Economic Analysis (IDEA) website. There was also the opportunity for individual drop-in sessions that could be arranged either before or during the trip. These sessions ended up focusing on how to use Tableau for field operations data; reviewing the structure and analyses of budget tables for program offices; a closer look at how to use USAID’s Development Information Solution (DIS) and its data; and exploring ideas for business automation. 

Through working with the USAID Mission staff and implementing partners and encouraging participation during the presentations and workshops, the facilitators were also able to better understand the needs of Missions when it comes to working with data. For the Mission and implementing partners, the trip provided direct support to individuals and teams on brainstorming, developing, and improving data products and processes, which are tools that can ultimately increase the efficiency of reporting and use of data across the Mission. In addition to its work in Zimbabwe, Data Services has provided support to over 66 Missions through services such as Country Economic Reviews, regular reporting and data analysis, data management planning, and data literacy training. DevTech thanks the USAID Zimbabwe Mission and looks forward to working with more missions in future Mission Support Packages! 

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