Data for Development

DIAL’s Data for Development (D4D) focus area refers to the use of data generated by mobile and digital devices and services which, if available on a timely basis and analyzed in ways that protect end user rights, has the potential to inform and greatly improve public sector decision-making.

The opportunity

While millions of low-income and otherwise vulnerable communities remain underserved, billions are now using mobile phones and other digital services. Nearly 70 percent of the economically bottom fifth of the population in developing countries own a mobile phone – more than have access to electricity or clean water. The proliferation of digital services – from mobile operator call data records (CDRs), to mobile apps and, to value added services (VAS) delivering health, education and other services over mobile channels – holds the potential to generate unprecedented volumes of data.

This scale creates new opportunity for generating actionable insights, enabling data scientists to determine indicators that affect programmatic effectiveness, such as people’s location and movement patterns, financial and economic activity, identity and demographics, service usage patterns, social graphs and call patterns, sentiment and trends and even diagnostic and ambient conditions surrounding a user. A number of private- and development-sector D4D efforts are underway, from elevating the development sector’s use of all types of sectoral data to corporate initiatives to utilize digital data for development. An ecosystem of analytics, software, cloud services and other types of solutions and companies is emerging to realize the commercial potential of these opportunities. New techniques and business models for analyzing and drawing insights from multiple and large data sets are becoming more available, enabling new ways of understanding user needs – particularly those of girls and women – for both private commercial and public good uses.

Key barriers and root causes

However, the potential of utilizing digital data for social impact is in its early stages. While all see the value in this data, a standardized, easy way for private sector and development actors to share or leverage data before a crisis does not exist today.

Data for Development investments

By proving viable, systematic models for accessing mobile and internet data and demonstrating increased understanding and use of D4D in selected countries, DIAL can help create a viable D4D ecosystem that will lead to improved public service delivery and development program decision-making and delivery.