Data and Technology

Smart, effective development policies rely increasingly on data and technology, but serious challenges to the availability, quality, and use of both remain in many parts of the developing world. CGD’s data and technology work focuses on how to deliver a data revolution and how to overcome barriers created by misaligned political and institutional incentives within and between governments. We also research the opportunities presented by greater data and technology from mobile banking to surveys of citizen priorities and the use of biometrics to facilitate cash-transfer programs, help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, and empower millions more people around the world.


man getting iris scan

A growing number of developing countries are using biometric technologies to create national identification programs or for more specific needs including cash transfers, voter registration, and disaster relief.  CGD’s work is helping shape best practices in applications such elections, financial inclusion, and discouraging child trafficking.

The use of basic economic and demographic data to inform policy across Africa has significant room for improvement. CGD and the African Population and Health Research teamed up on recommendations to overcome the obstacles greater use of data in development decision-making on the continent.


Mobile phones have been one of the most rapidly adopted technologies ever introduced in the developing world. With multiple uses such as voice, SMS, and access to the internet, mobile phones produce diverse economic and social benefits.

Digital Payments in India

Rapid advances in digital technology, particularly in digital payments and identification systems, can be harnessed to transform the way states implement poverty-reduction programs and to help achieve the SDGs. CGD’s work helps clarify linkages among digital payment systems, identification, and the achievement of the SDGs.