Listening to AfricaData collection is an extremely important part of solving any problem. It is key in understanding the needs of a person, place or thing and what impacts certain stimuli have on them. When it comes to people, this can be particularly difficult, especially in war-torn regions, impoverished nations or in migrant communities. Unfortunately, these are often the conditions of the extremely poor.

In order to understand global poverty and effective methods to eradicate it, data must be gathered on people and their living conditions, whatever they may be. Historically, groups such as the World Bank would collect this data personally, traveling to sites and interviewing locals. However, this can be a vastly ineffective way to gather data for the aforementioned reasons, as people may migrate or the area may be too dangerous to travel. Listening to Africa is an organization investing in technology to help solve this problem.

Listening to Africa is a program set up by the World Bank Group to collect data on global poverty. Listening to Africa is using mobile phones supplemented by information from statistical offices and nongovernmental organizations in Africa in order to systematically collect data on extremely poor regions.

The program marries two different approaches; face-to-face interviews and follow-up phone calls to monitor selected regions. Respondents are asked some simple questions to begin the process and take part in 20-minute phone calls each month as the program is carried out. Those who complete the surveys successfully are awarded credit to their phones. Data from these calls is then paired with data collection done in the field and with other statistical offices to help better understand real time conditions in impoverished regions.

Listening to Africa has a great potential for data analysts to communicate with policy-makers on actual conditions of these regions, which will, in turn, allow them to better serve these communities and eventually help bring global poverty to an end.

Casey Hess
Photo: Flickr