The Tech Revolution That’s Changing How We Measure Poverty
Friday, July 28, 2017
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.
Countries, often in partnership with the World Bank Group and other agencies, measure poverty and wellbeing using household surveys that help give policymakers a sense of who the poor are, where they live, and what is holding back their progress. Once a paper-and-pencil exercise, technology is beginning to revolutionize the field of household data collection, and the World Bank is tapping into this potential to produce more and better poverty data.
It wasn’t long ago that to conduct household surveys, data collectors from national statistical offices would set off on a journey across the country to interview respondents on a set of questions, equipped with nothing but a paper questionnaire on which to jot down the information. Most were incredibly diligent. Others, less so. Either way, these data collectors would return to the statistical office, their hand-written notes would be transferred to a computer system, and after a bunch of data calculations, voila: a country’s poverty rate.