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CGD’s work in technology and development focuses on the macroeconomic implications of technology change as well as technological applications for specific development challenges.
Technological advances are a driving force for development. But policy choices determine who benefits. CGD focuses on three key questions around innovation, growth, and inequality: How can governments use existing technologies to deliver services more effectively to citizens? How can international institutions help create and spread new technologies to tackle shared problems like climate change and pandemics? And how can policymakers ensure advances in artificial intelligence, automation, and communications bring shared benefits and not greater global inequality?
Jenny Aker and co-authors present the results of a field experiment implemented in Mozambique based on three interventions providing information to voters and calling for their participation in the elections: an SMS civic education campaign centered on the elections, an SMS hotline to which citizens were able to report electoral misconduct, and the distribution of a free newspaper door-to-door focusing on voter education.
Mobile applications – or ‘apps’ – seem to be the latest craze in mobile technology for global health programming. The proliferation of these apps is converging around growing interests in open (and big) data, so you don’t have to look far to find creative ways they are being used to collect and display data in the development sector.
Mobile users can download apps that map USAID’s portfolio and Development Expertise Clearinghouse (DEC) evaluations. And USAID’s 2012 Hack for Hunger event helped create an open data app from Gareem and Palantir which alert farmers about food security warnings. A few other apps from USAID which are not yet available include Family Choices, which aims “to enhance the perception of a girl’s place in and value to her family,” 9-Minutes, where the user experiences the ‘adventures of nine months of pregnancy” and Worm Attack!, which focuses on the “strategic use of deworming pills”– although the target audience for these aren’t exactly clear yet. Still, USAID was awarded the “best government policy for mobile development” earlier this year for establishing a dedicated mobile solutions team to bring these kinds of apps to underserved communities.
USAID isn’t the only organization that has started to apply mobile applications in their programming. Last year the WHO introduced its first app – a mobile version of its Global School-based Student Health Survey which collects information on the health and behaviors of adolescents – and more recently issued an app to help parents keep track of children’s vaccinations. The World Bank also offers 17 different mobile apps on its website, from the World Bank Gender DataFinder to Doing Business at a Glance.
Apps for global health have a short history – IntraHealth claims to have released the first global health app just last year (see full archive of global development apps here). So how important will they will be to the global health community?
The history of mHealth more broadly has shown that this convergence of mobile technology and data can have major implications for development—from tracking population movements to replacing traditional data sources. And the potential audience (and data sample) is enormous. In 2011, there were almost 6 billion mobile cellular telephone subscriptions globally (three quarters of the planet’s population).
But there are certainly cautionary lessons that can be learned from the surging popularity of mHealth—now an estimated $2 billion dollar business this year. Despite mHealth’s popularity, few (if any) programs have been able to scale up past the pilot phase and become integral part of health systems. Similarly, the problems that have hindered the success of mhealth in terms of coordination across funders and implementers will likely also be a challenge for global health apps—potentially limiting the efficiency and effectiveness of investments in these technologies. While mobile apps seem promising, it remains to be seen if they will be able to overcome many of the same issues mHealth have faced.
Have any global health or development apps that you’d recommend? Let us know in the comments section below.
Biometric identification is spreading rapidly across the developing world, where it is helping to close the “identification gap” that separates poor countries from rich ones. India’s Unique Identification (UID) project offers important lessons for other countries.
Nandan Nilekani’s lecture will focus on his experience with Aadhaar, the Unique ID (UID) system the Indian Government is in the process of building. Over 300 million people have been enrolled and the goal is to enroll 1.2 billion residents of India.
Nandan Nilekani is an Indian entrepreneur and Chairman of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) in the rank of Union Cabinet Minister. Prior to this post, Nilekani co-founded and served as CEO of Infosys, an India-based, multinational provider of business consulting, technology, engineering, and outsourcing services. In 2010, Foreign Policy magazine listed him as one of the Top 100 Global Thinkers. Time magazine listed him as one of the 100 most influential people in the world in both 2006 and 2009. In 2006, he was awarded one of India’s highest civilian honors, the Padma Bhushan and was also named Businessman of the Year by Forbes Asia.
Nilekani’s lecture will focus on his experience with Aadhaar, the Unique ID (UID) system the Indian Government is in the process of building. Over 300 million people have been enrolled and the goal is to enroll 1.2 billion residents of India. UID uses multimodal biometrics to solve the most basic of development challenges – identity. It is primarily aimed at ensuring inclusive growth, strengthening equity by providing a form of identity to those in the marginalized sections of society, and enabling better delivery of services and effective governance. Over the next few years a large number of applications by public and private entities are expected to be developed, providing transformational benefits to residents of India.
Nilekani is featured speaker of CGD’s eighth annual Richard H. Sabot Lecture honoring the life and work of Richard “Dick” Sabot, a friend, co-author, and founding member of CGD's board of directors. CGD president Nancy Birdsall will host and serve as moderator for a discussion after the lecture.
This paper updates Working Paper 294. Forest Conservation Performance Rating (fCPR) is a system of color-coded ratings for tropical forest conservation performance that can be implemented for local areas, countries, regions, and the entire pan-tropics.
The use of biometric identification technology is growing rapidly in the developing world. It offers the prospect of eliminating the "identity gap" between rich and poor countries, where birth registration lags and many citizens have no official identity. Biometrics now underpins a wide range of developmental applications, including salary payments, social transfers, health insurance, financial access and elections.
A recent CGD working paper, “Identification and Development: The Biometrics Revolution” by Alan Gelb and Julia Clark, analyzes 160 such programs across 72 countries, half of which have been supported by donors. Together these initiatives affect at least 1 billion people. Some have led to innovations in service delivery and greater inclusion. But there are also risks of exclusion, privacy concerns, and problems with effective implementation.
This event will bring together technical and development experts at the forefront of this new technology to discuss the role of identification in development, how biometrics are used in the field, what advances are likely in the future and how they might best be supported by donors, and what changes are needed to make the most of the biometrics revolution.