Family farmers in Senegal are increasing their crop yields by experimenting with a new agricultural input: data.
Thousands of farmers are using technology to share information about their day-to-day operations so they can function more efficiently as a cooperative. Together, they optimize productivity by coordinating where they grow crops, negotiate bulk fertilizer purchases, share local market prices, check weather forecasts in real-time, and compare crop yields using off-the-shelf, cloud-based software.
These smallholder farmers have empowered themselves with better information to improve their standing in the national marketplace.
Like these farmers, USAID recognizes the transformative potential of data to amplify impact. Greater accessibility to mapping tools, mobile phone-based solutions, low-cost sensors, satellite imagery, and social media is opening worlds of opportunity to people across the globe.
We’re betting that development professionals, government officials and citizens around the world will take advantage of improved access to data to improve their outcomes.
In order to unlock the promise of tech-enabled, data-fueled growth, USAID’s U.S. Global Development Lab launched an Agency-wide competition in 2014, the Data2Action award, to find and support exemplary innovations that use information to accelerate progress.
We received input from 80 countries through 45 USAID missions and bureaus, representing all sectors of development, including health, agriculture, water, energy, governance and disaster assistance. This response is a clear statement about the capacity and demand for data-driven development within USAID. Across the Agency, the current and continued use of high quality data is critical to achieving our mission of helping to end extreme poverty.
From this pool of applicants, we’ve identified eight USAID teams who are already “turning data into action.” They’re mapping food insecurity in Nepal; using citizen feedback to improve post-conflict reconciliation in Mali; building transparent dairy markets using mobile phones in Kosovo; and optimizing electricity distribution using sensors in Pakistan.
Beyond celebrating these current USAID innovators, we’re also supporting four new ideas for data-driven development. These four award winners are receiving support for innovations that remotely monitor rural water systems, track malaria using the cloud, crowdsource disaster preparedness mapping and allow smallholder farmers to use Earth-orbiting satellites. Our recently released Data2Action booklet showcases more details on these exciting pilot projects.
Through the Data2Action award, we’ve learned how the use of data is accelerating our development impact around the world. Innovators like the Data2Action winners are leading a grassroots movement that is revolutionizing the way we use technology and information to solve global challenges.
Do you have a passion for using data to improve lives, but don’t know how to turn your idea into action? USAID can support your passion through shared experiences, best practices and trainings. The Lab, FHI360, and TechChange recently teamed up to create a free interactive online course on Mobile Data Solutions. The two-hour course is a mix of animations, video interviews and scenario-based case studies.
In just four months, more than 1,000 people from 125 countries and representing over 600 organizations have taken the course. Admire Nyereyemhuka, who works for Catholic Relief Services in Zimbabwe, recently completed Mobile Data Solutions and is now building an SMS-based reporting system for a USAID/Food for Peace program that’s ensuring food security and improving nutrition in Zimbabwe.
“This course is so practical,” Admire said. “Whenever my friends and colleagues ask me if it will be advisable to use mobile technologies in their projects, I provide them with the course so they can make informed decisions.”
Like the data-sharing farmers in Senegal, USAID and our partners around the world are unlocking the power of real-time data to help optimize our results. Embracing new technologies allows us to turn data into action, and action into impact so that every dollar spent on development goes further.