SHA staff using open-IHM

Technology

Evidence for Development (EfD) is producing specialised analytical software for both the individual household method (IHM) and the household economy approach (HEA), in order to increase the effectiveness of these innovative methods and to make them as widely and openly available as possible.

The IHM and the HEA are used to provide accurate measures of income, poverty and access to food and other basic needs. The HEA is now widely and effectively used for vulnerability monitoring and humanitarian responses at district, provincial and national levels across much of sub-Saharan Africa. The IHM has been incorporated into both NGO programme work and academic research. Its uses include programme design, targeting, monitoring and evaluation and, unlike the HEA, the IHM can be used in urban as well as in rural areas.

The IHM software is an important new tool for understanding how poor people survive and for shaping policies and programmes that better meet their needs. The original version, written by EfD’s John Seaman, is proprietary software that could only be maintained and updated by Evidence for Development. But as EfD wants its analytical tools to reach the maximum number of researchers, NGOs and policy makers, the original IHM software has been transferred to a more customisable and user-friendly open-source program, open-IHM, produced by Tiwonge Manda and Brown Msiska from the Department of Mathematical Sciences at Chancellor College, University of Malawi, with support from Sarah Mount (University of Wolverhampton) and Dai Clegg, an open-source programming expert and EfD board member.

The open-source platform allows the software to be maintained and enhanced by a worldwide community of programmers. Contributors to the project are able to provide code, documentation and technical support through established collaborative software development processes that have been used to develop many highly sophisticated computer programs. Adopters of the IHM in universities, governments and NGOs will be able to adapt the software further for their own needs and projects, adding new features where necessary.

A working version of open-IHM is in use by NGOs, academics and students in the UK and many African countries, and improvements to the software are being made on an on-going basis. It is now possible to download open-IHM from the (old) project website. We strongly recommend that you contact us before downloading it (to ensure that you download the correct version and install it successfully), or if you are interested in taking part in training courses.

A second programme is now being developed to facilitate more sophisticated HEA analysis (which is currently highly reliant on very complex spreadsheets) and to widen the scope of the methodology.

Work on our software has already benefited from ‘sprint’ workshop sessions that we were privileged to be given at PyCon UK 2012, the prestigious conference for programmers using the Python programming language.

Python programmers: get involved!

The open-IHM program uses a data store based on open-source MySQL databases, which are accessed through a simple user interface written in Python. All documentation was previously available on the now-archived Google Code website for the project (http://code.google.com/p/open-ihm/); most of this – and all updates since mid-2015 – should now have been moved across to our Bitbucket website for the project (https://bitbucket.org/jshik/open-ihm).

Get in touch with us to find out more about how you might be able to help with these exciting projects.