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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. In this context, governments are asking, How do we get emergency assistance to those who need it most?


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. 


1) Support core research on targeting led by CEGA Faculty co-Director Joshua Blumenstock

CEGA is supporting ongoing efforts to deploy frontier AI technology to help our government partners in Togo to target 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.

Learn more about the ongoing work in Togo from this continuously updated list of outputs:

  1. Executive summary: Using Mobile Phone and Satellite Data to Target Emergency Cash Transfers
  2. Non-technical overview: Using AI to Target Emergency COVID-19 Assistance in Togo
  3. Nature: Machine learning can help get COVID-19 aid to those who need it most
  4. Read the press coverage of this work in NPR, Wired, Fast Company linked below

2) 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.

See our Featured Projects List for a running list of prospective and active projects related to targeting aid.

As the initiative evolves, we are sharing future funding opportunities, latest targeting research, and resources with our network through our newsletter, webinars, and strategic matchmaking activities.

You can sign up for our Targeting newsletter to receive targeting and larger Data Science for Development updates, or access past newsletter issues here:

3) Request for Proposals (currently closed)

In fall 2020, we competitively awarded grants of $50-100k to research teams improving targeting approaches in LMICs. See the below “Targeting Initiative Research” section for details on each of the funded projects, or read our blog post for an overview of funded studies.

CEGA prides itself on supporting inclusive research. Two of the three projects we funded had an LMIC co-investigator.


Scientific Directors

Targeting Initiative Research

Data Science for Development

Combining satellite imagery and machine learning to target social protection in Pakistan

Sean Fox | Pakistan
Data Science for Development

A new index of poverty to target government cash transfers in Ghana

Ethan Ligon | Ghana
Data Science for Development

Quantifying the benefits of better targeting employment programs for Syrian refugees

Simon Quinn | Jordan
Data Science for Development

Using AI and Digital Data to Target Cash Transfers in Togo

Joshua Blumenstock | Togo
View More Targeting Initiative Research

Targeting Initiative Resources

Data Science for DevelopmentTechnology

Global Poverty Map

Datasets & Registries & Replications   |   Technology
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 DevelopmentTechnology

(Machine) Learning What Governments Value

Working Paper   |   Technology
Data Science for DevelopmentFinancial InclusionTechnology

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

Presentations   |   Financial Inclusion
Data Science for DevelopmentTechnology

Video: Josh Blumenstock | COVID in the Global South 2020

Presentations   |   Technology
View More Targeting Initiative Resources


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