This session was hosted by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ).
Tim Ohlenburg, Consultant, OPM/PhD Candidate at University College London, moderated the discussion between the following panelists:
- Emily Aiken, Consultant OPM/PhD Candidate at UC Berkeley
- Silété Devo, Directory General, AgenceNational d’Identifiaction(ANID), Togo
- Carin Koster, General Manager APM and Solution Management, South African Social Security Agency
- Mulder Mkutuluma, Disaster Risk Finance Specialist, National Local Government Finance Committee, Malawi
- Margaux Vinez, Senior Economist, World Bank
The session explored the novel uses of digital data sources (e.g. satellite, mobile phone, social media, and financial services data) – especially when strategically linked to other data sources – in low- and middle-income countries to inform policy design, implementation, and evaluation.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, many social protection systems turned to readily available digital data sources to inform programme design, including existing non-traditional ‘digital trace’ data from satellites, mobile phones, and other digital sensors. Administrative data, especially when integrated across government, was another key source of information. Panelists shared lessons learned from such programmes, with respect to data access, data integration, and data protection, with social protection applications across the social protection delivery chain.
Key takeaways from the discussion included the following:
Non-traditional digital data sources will be most effective when deployed as a complement to – rather than a replacement for – traditional methods of collecting data for social protection systems.
The capacity of countries to effectively use these data sources should be developed. Countries are already experiencing challenges to institutionalise traditional data sources and to develop and use traditional information systems. The capacity challenges in using non-traditional data sources are even larger and need to be considered. In most of the cases during COVID-19, an academic institution was involved and supported the use of these data sources.
The temporal and real-time nature of ‘digital trace’ data sources is particularly promising for responding rapidly to economic shocks with real-time or participatory action.
Engaging stakeholders – especially programme beneficiaries – in aspects related to programme design is essential for balancing possible surveillance harms with effective programming and ensuring that the integration of digital data sources respects local norms around privacy and transparency.