I'm sure I'm not the only one who uses my mobile phone for almost everything but to make a call. Thanks to technological advances and the explosion of social media, we text, tweet or do Facebook posts on our devices. But beyond mere communications tools, mobile phones are also crucial for fostering economic activity and development. And I don't mean just in the U.S. and rich countries, but in developing countries.
If the data and related metadata collected for impact evaluations was more readily discoverable, searchable, and made available, the world would be a better place. Well, at least the research would be better. It would be easier to replicate studies and, in the process, to expand them by for example: trying other outcome indicators; checking robustness; and looking for heterogeneity effects (e.g.
In my last blog I wrote about some useful cloud based services that could be used by development professionals for their convenience, and also for understanding the broader implications of moving towards the cloud. Today we will look at some innovative uses of cloud services.
A service or a tool is only as good as the use you make of it. Two interesting uses of cloud services are the use of Google Docs to do surveys, and the potential for real time collaboration.
The thought has occurred to me that there are more people than ever doing surveys of various sorts in developing countries, and many graduate students, young faculty, and other researchers who would love the opportunity to cheaply add questions to a survey. I therefore wonder whether there is a missed opportunity for the two sides to get together. Let me explain what I’m thinking of, and then let us know whether you think this is really an issue or not.
We have just published a working paper reporting on a global survey of central banks on how governments regulate and collect data on cross-border remittance flows.* During 2008-9, we sent questionnaires - an inflow module or an outflow module, depending on whether the country is largely migrant-sending or migrant-receiving - to 176 central banks and other national institutions involved in remittances. 114 institutions responded.
These responses indicate that:
- There is a need for more frequent and better coordinated data collection across national institutions, among different divisions within the same national institution, and among countries.
- Countries should monitor (I mean, try to understand) new channels and technologies in monitoring remittance flows. Authorities should work closely with mobile phone operators to strike the right regulatory balance.
- The high cost of transfers was cited in the survey as the top factor inhibiting the use of formal channels.
- Many countries, particularly in Africa, have made progress in avoiding exclusivity contracts, which helps increase competitiveness and reduce transfer costs. But further policy reforms and initiatives are needed.
In the last blog we saw that most resettlers are broadly satisfied with the resettlement process and are positive and optimistic about their lives as a whole. But…how do they feel about their lives in comparison to the very different world they lived in before relocation? What are the changes they value or regret?
The respondents were asked directly how they felt about life now compared with life before resettlement. The overwhelming majority think that life has got much better, and that the vulnerable households are even more likely to feel this way than the non-vulnerable—no vulnerable households felt that life had got worse.
In last week’s blog I showed that, when we examine consumption—a commonly used measure of household welfare—the resettled households appear to be doing relatively well, and much better than before resettlement. But economic circumstances are just one small part of what really matters to households. In order to get closer to a broader picture of “well-being”, I’m going to present some evidence of how these households themselves view their lives overall and how they feel about the changes going on around them. I hope that this will provide new insights to the question of “how are the resettled people doing overall?”
|On the Nakai plateau, a large proportion of income is non-monetary. If we fail to account for this income, we grossly underestimate the living standards of most households. (WB photo)|
|Some recipients of a scholarship given to young girls in Cambodia at the end of primary school. The program has had a significant effect on girls’ secondary enrollment. (photo by Deon Filmer)
Those of us who have had the pleasure of raising an adolescent girl – and survived the experience – might blanch at the thought of a program to stimulate education that gave her, rather than the doting parent, a grant equivalent to 3% of the family’s average per capita monthly consumption. And yet, that’s exactly what a policy experiment, conducted by my friend Berk Ozler and other researchers, did in Malawi. What’s more, they found that raising these girl-targeted cash transfers increased school attendance much more than raising those given to parents.
Empowering women with resources has long been recognized as a powerful weapon to safeguard investments in human capital. Research has shown that transfers to women have a more powerful effect than to men in raising school attendance and ensuring that kids are immunized. But more recent research, like Berk et al.’s, is showing that policies aimed directly at adolescent girls and young women may have an even greater effect, not only in encouraging schooling but in ensuring reproductive health. Pascaline Dupas’ policy experiment in Kenya showed that simply giving young women information showing that older men were more likely to be HIV-positive led them to eschew partnering with ‘sugar daddies’.
The investment climate is the fundamental socio-economic framework in which firms operate – the macroeconomic and trade policies they face, the labor and financial markets in which they recruit and raise money, the available infrastructure and impo
A recent paper by Berta Martín-López and colleagues in Conservation Biology reports how the size of an animal’s eyes appears to be people’s main measure for determining whether they think an animal is important enough for them to open their pocket books and pay for its conservation.
It was in Manila last week where I came across a banner headline on a major broadsheet that read “The people, not surveys, should judge (the president’s) performance." I was confused. Aren't people’s attitudes, opinions, and intentions precisely what surveys seek to measure? Aren’t surveys, in fact, meant to reflect the will and preferences of the people?
When surveys are done well and conscientiously, they provide valuable information from which we can derive knowledge helpful toward understanding people's opinions, especially on matters of public interest. Applying public opinion research techniques can also aid in improving the quality of democratic governance, particularly in coming to more informed decisions that more closely reflect citizen preferences (e.g., James S. Fishkin’s chapter in Governance Reform under Real-World Conditions).