Low-resource settings often lack the infrastructure required for intensive, large-scale data collection on poverty, livelihoods, and economic development. Instead, researchers have relied on small or infrequent surveys to capture information about households and their environments. These methods are prone to measurement errors and can be costly to implement. As a result, development practitioners and policy-makers often lack reliable information on how best to tailor policies or programs to the specific needs of resource-poor communities.
CEGA enhances the integrity of data collected in field research settings by promoting the use of new technologies that help us understand human behavior, community decision-making, and the environmental impacts of economic activity. These include micro and nano satellites, wireless sensor networks, and mobile devices as well as advances in machine learning and artificial intelligence. CEGA partners with Silicon Valley technology start-ups and data scientists to make these new tools easy to use for development researchers, while ensuring the reliability and accuracy of the data collected.
Annual Conference: Measuring Development
Each year, in partnership with the World Bank's Development Impact Evaluation (DIME) Initiative, CEGA hosts a workshop on technologies that have advanced our ability to "measure" development. Past focus areas include:
Energy & Environment (2014)
Crisis Response & Resilience (2015)
Infrastructure Monitoring (2016)
This series, which highlights contributions from private sector technology companies, has catalyzed a number of exciting new projects at the forefront of development research, including work on crop yield estimation and land use in Sub-Saharan Africa.
The Goldilocks Project
In partnership with Google and Innovations for Poverty Action, CEGA launched the Goldilocks Project, which helps non-governmental organizations (NGOs) build and use appropriately-sized data collection systems to accurately monitor, evaluate, and report impact. Using new technologies like microsatellite imagery, mobile applications, and environmental sensors, CEGA is helping NGOs use timely and actionable operational data for effective decision-making, while demonstrating accountability to their funders.
Measurement Webinar Series
In 2015, CEGA partnered with TechChange to produce a webinar series on technologies used in Monitoring & Evaluation. We have also partnered with NetHope and Engineering4Change to produce practical learning tools and videos on using technology to measure development.
Roughly 4 million people die prematurely from illness attributable to the household air pollution from cooking with solid fuels. Improved cookstoves have the potential to substantially reduce exposure to harmful emissions from cooking. However, adoption and impacts of these cookstoves are usually measured with surveys, which are known to be highly error-prone. In this study, sensors are applied to the cookstoves to accurately measure adoption.
In the Philippines magnetite naturally occurs in black sand in rivers and along much of the coast, and is extracted through sand mining and processing. However, black sand mining can increase the frequency and the magnitude of land subsidence, which makes local communities particularly vulnerable to seasonal typhoons, climate change and sea level rise. The aim of this research is to use satellite imagery to measure the scope of black sand mining and associated environmental impacts.
This Fall 2015 seminar, organized in partnership with the UC Berkeley D-Lab, explored innovative methods for data collection and management in social science research. The course addressed the fast-growing area of technologies used for measuring social and environmental changes, including mobile devices, "Internet of Things" style sensors, and remote sensing. The seminar took a project-based approach, with a classroom discussion each week, followed by a tutorial.
Photo Credit: US Geological Survey