Collecting fast, inexpensive, and representative data for hard-to-reach populations


Data on Demand | November 2018

Data on Demand has the potential to transform how governments, practitioners, and researchers collect and use data in the development sector, enabling decision-makers to gain a deeper understanding of key populations they hope to reach.  

With support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, IDinsight received a $1 million grant to build on its Data on Demand initiatives, which will enable the team to rigorously test innovations and improve the model in India and beyond.

Traditionally, high-quality data collection approaches, such as in-person household surveys, are expensive and slow for policymakers and program implementers -- while more immediate data sources like MIS data are often highly unreliable. With DoD, IDinsight seeks to significantly reduce the time and cost of conducting high-quality household and facility surveys by building a permanent data collection infrastructure, leveraging new technology, and rigorously testing the application of both under a broad spectrum of conditions.

IDinsight is already deploying this platform at a large scale, currently reaching 160,000 people across Northern and Eastern India -- which is representative of approximately 60 million people. Through this grant, we will test the model under different conditions and with emerging technology to improve its output while further reducing cost and time investments

This new project focuses on:

  • Building robust targeting tools (sampling frames) by leveraging electoral databases and satellite imagery combined with custom machine learning models

  • Developing technology to hire and train remote surveyors

  • Testing incentives models for respondents participating in phone surveys

  • Using automated phone surveys, text messaging and random digit dialing combined with advanced weighting mechanisms to try to achieve representative samples

  • Developing software and sophisticated data quality control processes to significantly reduce field management and oversight costs

  • Experimenting with software and collection techniques developed by other Gates Foundation partners, for example using a device to estimate height, weight, etc

  • Testing novel survey modules to improve on difficult to measure issues with high potential for inclusion in existing large surveys

This grant gives IDinsight the funding and breadth to explore and develop new applications and techniques that have the potential to revolutionize data collection in the development context.

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