Catholic Relief Services (CRS)
The Monitoring & Evaluation (M&E) team at Catholic Relief Services (CRS), a humanitarian relief agency headquartered in Baltimore, had been collecting and compiling an impressive array of digital resources with the goal of creating an M&E Digital Library. The collection included articles, bibliographies, checklists, guides, surveys, and training materials in a variety of formats from PDFs to documents and presentations.
- The Digital Library needed to reach the hands of CRS field and in-country staff, many of whom worked in connectivity-constrained environments. A web site with a searchable resource listing would have been an easy solution. But, that required a good internet connection, especially to download large files.
- The interface for searching, finding, and downloading resources should be simple and easy to use since the end users will have widely varying degrees of expertise and technical skills.
- The Digital Library needed to be efficiently and accurately updated on a regular basis in a central repository. Data entry errors (such as duplicate authors and no uniform keyword list) were creeping into the existing spreadsheet containing information about the resources.
Solution & Results
Appropriate IT built a custom solution with two components, one for storage and another for publishing.
Data is stored in an Access database where CRS staff members add or update information about resources. The database has an easy to use data entry screen that eliminates common data entry errors by providing pick-lists for authors, keywords, etc.
Data is published to a dynamic and portable website on a CD-ROM. The entire LAMP stack (Linux, Apache, MySQL, and PHP) was loaded on the CD-ROM along with the website front-end, the database back-end, and all the resource library documents.
The field staff can access a dynamic website, browse through the listing, search various fields of the database, and download documents from the library – all without the need for an internet connection.
Another important outcome is that the application was created in such a way that non-technical program staff can update the database, publish to the website, and create future CD-ROM versions on their own without the need for any assistance from external technology consultants, including Appropriate IT’s.
Project Director, Database Designer, Software Engineer, Interface Designer, and Quality Assurance (QA) Tester.