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CEGA Initiative - Targeting Aid Better

Targeting Aid Better


As COVID-19 spreads in low and middle-income countries (LMICs), economic disruptions have left hundreds of millions without work or income. To offset the pandemic’s most devastating effects, governments around the world are quickly rolling out new measures for humanitarian aid and social protection. However, many LMICs lack reliable information regarding economic conditions on-the-ground, especially for the large number of individuals working in the informal sector. In this context, governments are asking, How do we get emergency assistance to those who need it most?

Groundbreaking research by CEGA faculty has shown how high-frequency data from mobile phone operators and satellite networks, combined with machine learning approaches, can be used to fill this information gap and rapidly identify the households most in need of support. Ongoing projects explore how alternative sources of administrative data can be used to supplement standard government registries. These and other innovative targeting methods carry enormous potential to help policymakers quickly and effectively target assistance to people in direst need.


CEGA’s Targeting Aid Better (“Targeting”) Initiative – launched in 2020 with support from an anonymous donor – facilitates the use of innovative approaches to improve the targeting of social protection programs in LMICs. We are prioritizing work with government and NGO partners that facilitates rapidly delivering financial resources to the most vulnerable households and small businesses in the wake of COVID-19.

Key activities include:

  • Support ongoing research activities. CEGA is supporting ongoing efforts to deploy frontier AI technology to help our government partners in Togo, Nigeria, and Bangladesh target their COVID-19 aid precisely, rapidly, cheaply, and at scale to vulnerable households, with important lessons for other countries and contexts. We are working closely with colleagues at IPA, J-PAL, and Y-Rise on these projects.
  • Competitively award funding to new projects. We will competitively award grants of $25-100k to research teams that are poised to improve targeting approaches in LMICs, and track and openly share lessons about the effectiveness of these approaches.
  • Coordinate knowledge-sharing and collaboration across an international community of practice. The Targeting initiative facilitates the efficient exchange of practical knowledge, evidence, and collaboration opportunities to researchers, policymakers, frontline providers, and donors invested in the effective targeting of humanitarian assistance at scale. As the initiative evolves, we will share resources and information with our network through an online hub, regular webinars, and strategic matchmaking activities.

Our Request for Proposals is now open to research teams, governments, and NGOs interested in applying for funding through this initiative, with a deadline of October 30, 2020.

Apply to the RFP here

Scientific Directors

Targeting Initiative Resources

Data Science for DevelopmentTechnology

Video: RECOVR Webinar | Cash Transfers for COVID-19 Relief

Presentations   |   Technology
Data Science for Development

Ugo Gentilini's weekly social protection links

Courses & Toolkits
Data Science for DevelopmentFinancial InclusionTechnology

Video: Josh Blumenstock | Targeting Anti-Poverty Programs Using Mobile Phone Data

Presentations   |   Financial Inclusion
Data Science for DevelopmentTechnology

(Machine) Learning What Governments Value

Working Paper   |   Technology
Data Science for DevelopmentTechnology

Video: Josh Blumenstock | Fighting Poverty with Data

Presentations   |   Technology
Data Science for DevelopmentTechnology

Video: Josh Blumenstock | COVID in the Global South 2020

Presentations   |   Technology
View More Targeting Initiative Resources


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