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Using Technology to Collect Poverty Data

Collect Poverty DataIn order to provide an impoverished area with the necessary aid, extensive and detailed data needs to be collected. Data can identify specific regions in poverty along with the types and causes of poverty in those vicinities. Yet, traditional pen and paper data collection is time consuming and error prone. Using technologies such as mobile phones and tablets as well as developing new information-collecting technology is a way to collect poverty data that can solve the glitches data collection has suffered in the past.

In the past, enumerators, or data collectors, would travel house to house and conduct paper surveys in order to acquire information on those living in poverty. These answers would then be manually transferred onto a computer.

Now, enumerators are using tablets that send survey answers to a centralized system. The tablets also have a GPS system that tracks the enumerators’ processes and makes sure they are in the right area. The tablets also allows for enumerators to record video interviews. This provides a visual context for the living conditions in certain impoverished areas.

Mobile phones are another great resource for data collecting. The World Bank’s Listening to Africa initiative uses cellphones to send out surveys as well as to monitor crises. The initiative plans to pass out phones and solar chargers to all respondents who don’t already own them. Mobile surveys provide a cheap way to gather frequent data from a large amount of people. Crises such as famines and natural disasters can be reported and monitored in real time as well by calling those in affected areas.

New information gathering technology is also being developed to make data collecting easier. Satellite imagery is being used to measure how many people live in poverty in certain areas and assess living conditions of these populations. Likewise, Smart Survey Boxes are being installed in households to automatically monitor power outages and energy quality in areas like Tajikistan.

With extensive data that’s up to date, the causes of and solutions to poverty can be better understood. Using technology to collect poverty data may be the solution to providing better aid to the world’s poor.

Hannah Kaiser

Photo: Flickr