Over the past few years, there has been a growing movement towards improving data collection, evaluation and data sharing across sectors. On Wednesday, June 27th, the Grameen Foundation and the World Bank participated in a discussion titled Using Data To End Poverty: How macro- and micro-data improve development interventions.
During the event, panelists Samantha Custer and Emily Tucker discussed how they are using data within their respective programs to alleviate poverty and how data insights can create more effective development interventions.
Samantha Custer, of the World Bank, spoke about the open data initiative which works with governments and international organizations to make information on development projects, results and funding more accessible. Since launching two years ago, the open data initiative has sought to not only provide more data to its clients and the public, but to enhance data by integrating existing data sources with citizen voices. By moving towards a data model that includes crowdsourcing and citizen provided data (micro-data) the World Bank hopes to provide more transparent and effective data, and encourage other open data initiatives such as the Kenya Open Data Initiative.Ms. Custer also emphasized that although transparency plays a critical role in the open data initiative, it is not only about the data itself; rather, it is about providing the data in such a way that it can be used meaningfully and interpreted easily. She outlined a variety of ways the initiative is attempting to do this, such as mapping for results, and applications for development. Emily Tucker, director of the Data Initiative at the Grameen Foundation, followed, stating that data can play an integral role in revealing client behaviors and informing product design. In order to be more effective and efficient in providing consumers with products that they actually want and need, Grameen Foundation began to dig into their data to uncover these insights. The partnership between Grameen and CARD Bank is one example of how the Foundation is working with their data to design more effective programs to meet the needs of the poor.
In 2009, The Grameen Foundation’s Microsaving team began working with CARD to assist in data gathering that could in turn fuel financial product designs. After conducting an initial study and asking lots of questions including ‘do poor people save?’ and ‘do they save differently?’ they “found that a client’s poverty status does not influence the client’s ability to save as much as their access to a suitable savings product.” Based on this first insight, they dove deeper into the data to design savings products that would appeal to the very poor.
What CARD and the Microsaving team found was that the poor do save, and they use a lot of the same tools and services that more affluent bank customers use such as ATMs, bank branches and savings accounts. The data validated the need to design a savings product for the poor that would include access to ATMs and bank branches in addition to core savings. However, the data would prove even more useful in evaluating the appropriate minimum/opening balance requirement. When CARD first rolled out its savings account, it had a high opening balance requirement. This directly impacted the number of accounts being opened. By referencing data and testing different options, they found that it was possible to increase the number of savings accounts being opened by reducing opening balance requirements. This insight went against the bank’s initial instincts since savings accounts cost the bank more to operate.
Data has also helped CARD re-engage and incentivize customers over the long term. By providing insights into customer behaviors and trends, the bank has been able to counteract or encourage different actions through different incentives.
The Grameen Foundation and the World Bank demonstrated how macro- and micro-data along with crowdsourcing and data layering, provide rich analysis and insights into any number of issues affecting the poor. By encouraging more data sharing and open data sources, it is likely that there will be more opportunities in the future for organizations across sectors to design efficient, transparent and innovative programs to eliminate poverty and assist the poor.
The data initiatives of these two organizations also represent a growing shift towards more collaborative and streamlined efforts on the part of players in the development field. New America Foundation’s Global Assets Project has also been working towards this objective, particularly through its Savings for the Poor Innovation and Knowledge Network (SPINNAKER), which aggregates, standardizes and highlights the landscape of information and data on savings products for the poor by coordinating with thinkers and doers in the field.