Fighting global poverty with data

The potential of digital technology and data to end poverty and hunger at a time when new approaches are urgently needed. Today, the smart use of digital data and other related technologies should be made core to every major initiative and successful pilot initiatives should be scaled up to reach millions. At the same time, it is essential to have in place policy frameworks that protect individuals and support social good. Such approaches are rapidly transforming industry after industry around the world. But they have yet to be embraced in the fight against poverty, and that fight is at a pivotal moment. After 25 years of progress, which saw nearly one billion people exit extreme poverty, the global rate of poverty reduction has slowed from about one per cent a year to as low as 0.5 per cent. More alarming, poverty is rising in Africa and now stands at 41 per cent. Meanwhile, global hunger is near a ten-year high, with one out of every nine persons chronically hungry. Critical to helping is understanding. Yet we know surprisingly little about the needs and opportunities of those living in extreme poverty, 70 percent whom are smallholder farmers and their families. Digital data-flows – facilitated by mobile phones, smart programs and powerful partnerships – allow us to understand the individual circumstances, behaviors and motivations of the poor. Opportunities to accelerate the fight against poverty apply not only to agriculture, but also in health, citizen agency and many other key areas for the poor. These can be applied across the landscapes of aid, social investment, government service and humanitarian relief.

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