The upcoming report “Knowing in Time: How technology innovations in statistical data collection can make a difference in development” discusses how the availability of statistics and household survey data in developing countries has improved in recent years, thanks to an increasing focus on indicators and goals and better statistical capacity. Statistical production systems nonetheless remain relatively slow and are unable to meet an increasing demand for more frequent and up-to-date statistics needed to assess and monitor an increasing number of volatile development challenges such as economic crises, weather shocks or political conflict.


Fortunately, the rapid expansion in mobile connectivity and progress in technological innovation provide new opportunities for increasing the speed and frequency with which data can be collected and statistics produced. This paper provides an overview of technological innovation in data collection in developing countries, with a particular focus on those technologies that enable high-frequency data collection. The review of tools and experiences demonstrates that new technologies can substantially advance the production of faster and more frequent data, even in the most challenging institutional and capacity constrained environments.


New survey technologies can improve the speed, accuracy and costs of ‘traditional’ surveys. Moreover, a set of new mobile phone based approaches allows for complementation of traditional surveys with relevant high-frequency indicators. In addition, ‘big data’ is becoming an emerging source of statistical data in developing countries.


Integrating these new data collection approaches successfully in national statistical systems would benefit significantly from NSOs and the NSDS process taking lead in identifying needs, possibilities and limitations for the deployment of such new data collection approaches. Improved statistics produced through these new approaches is an important step towards strengthening evidence-based policy making in response to emerging development challenges, particularly those concerned with volatility and shocks.


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