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Rural and low-resource settings, where most development research happens, often lack the infrastructure required for intensive consumer data collection. Instead, researchers have traditionally relied on small-scale, infrequent surveys and focus groups to capture households’ self-reported preferences or needs. 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.

Our Approach

CEGA enhances the integrity of data collected in field research settings by promoting the use of new tools to 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. 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.

The Goldilocks Project

In partnership with Google and Innovations for Poverty Action, CEGA is helping 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.

Research Highlights

Measuring Cookstove Usage

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.

Remote Sensing of Illegal Black Sand Mining

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.

Hacking Measurement

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