Pulse of South Sudan Project: Changing Poverty Data Collection

Pulse of South Sudan Project

The World Bank has proclaimed that the Pulse of South Sudan Project Initiative is a technological revolution that is completely changing the way poverty data is collected. It notes that “The world has an ambitious goal to end extreme poverty by 2030. But, without good poverty data, it is impossible to know whether we are making progress, or whether programs and policies are reaching those who are the most in need.”

Typical poverty data collection, often in partnership with organizations and agencies from the United Nations, UNICEF or the World Bank itself, is through household surveys and policy analysis. National statistical offices set out with pen and paper questionnaires to interview respondents, the data gathered is transferred to a computer database and a poverty rate is calculated. While technology can help streamline the process and eradicate any flaws or errors made when collecting answers to these poverty-based questions and translating them into percentages and national averages, it is still an incredibly impersonal and isolating process.

What the Pulse of South Sudan Project Initiative does when collecting data is that when household surveys are conducted, short, personalized testimonials are also recorded. This is a significant difference from the common data collection process because these short testimonials allow the data to have a face behind it. It reveals how these statistics can relate to life and life experiences.

The Pulse of South Sudan Project is also more formally called the High Frequency South Sudan Survey (HFSSS). By recording testimonials, the project captures livelihoods alongside important consumption patterns. When capturing the livelihoods of South Sudanese citizens, their perspectives on life can be better understood and policy can be better created and implemented for these citizens.

As the project’s homepage states, “the HFSSS aims to fill the lack of reliable data on South Sudan. This data can provide feedback to the government from their citizens and identify stresses early on.”

The project has limits that constitute room for growth and improvement. South Sudan is a conflict-stricken area and its three most affected areas have not yet been recorded by the project, therefore it is not yet providing a fully national perspective.

In spite of the beginning limitations, the project initiative still manages to give a voice to an impoverished community that is otherwise among the least acknowledged and represented. It is a landmark survey that has numerous implications that are exciting for the future of data collection in general. This future of poverty data collection begins in South Sudan, but can lend an ear to impoverished communities globally that otherwise feel left in silence.

Gabriella Paez

Photo: Flickr