Smarter Impact: A new approach to enabling inclusive economic development in the information age


Phil Westcott


Phil Westcott

We are living in a time of great opportunity, where information and communications technology is transforming the lives of billions of people living in remote locations. People who were once isolated are now connected in a way that offers a wealth of opportunities.

We believe there is scope here to create a smarter impact. The information age is generating a huge amount of new data around the world and creating unprecedented opportunities for governments, businesses and international aid organisations. Capabilities now exist to make sense of all this data in a way that was not previously possible. Data can be harnessed into meaningful information to measure progress against objectives and drive more inclusive development.

There is a clear opportunity for greater collaboration. Collectively, stakeholders can deliver far greater benefits as resources, programs, activities and objectives are aligned than if they operate in parallel as separate strands of uncoordinated activities. A shared dialogue between stakeholders is a fundamental first step in turning the vision of smarter impact and widespread inclusive development into reality.

The use of data in international development was at the centre of a debate at a recent IBM forum in London attended by over 100 key decision-makers from the public, private and charitable sectors. At the event IBM presented its new Smarter Impact vision to gauge the views of people from across the international development community and foster collaboration.

It became clear that leaders in the developing world are looking to promote vibrant economies, ensuring any gain from their natural resources drive benefit for all their citizens through long-term sustainable growth and capacity building. Meanwhile, multinationals are looking for stronger relationships and sustainable presence in these new markets. The development sector is looking to catalyse inclusive development, leveraging its spending with ever more attention to value for money and maximising impact.

Our proposition is that data (and the collaborative use of that data) holds the key. The challenge we have is to harness, consolidate and make sense of that data to give leaders from all sectors the timely indicators as they strive for inclusive economic growth – indicators that will help leaders blend development investment, government interventions and new business opportunities.

But where can they start?

Each of the three stakeholder groups can take targeted actions now to help make the vision of smarter impact a reality:

  • Assess what data you already have and how you can improve access to it.
  • Build on and broaden your existing sources to include new sources such as social media.
  • Focus on connecting existing sources of unconnected data and consider new ways to view and share data.
  • Proactively reach out to other stakeholders within and outside your sector to start sharing information and data.
  • Start to enable proactive planning and intelligence-based decision-making by exploring where there is potential for your organisation to make better use of available information.
  • Use analytic output to inform strategic and tactical decision-making, improve the allocation of resources and drive investments in smarter improvements.
  • Assess your existing operations, goals and capabilities to identify changes you need to make and develop a roadmap for action.
  • Organisations should plan smarter improvements that are feasible given prevailing economic conditions, prioritising investments in line with their overall development strategy.

By developing and improving key competencies, organisations can help to better meet the expectations of those they serve, build more prosperous communities and together enable inclusive growth and vitality. The time to act is now.

Phil Westcott is the Smarter Impact Lead at IBM UK. Please contact Phil on if you would like to find out more about IBM’s Smarter Impact vision.

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Tagged in: Collaboration communication Data global development Impact Information technology

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