Tools to Measure the Development Impact of Innovations
Measuring the social and economic impacts of a product or service is a challenge in any context, but particularly among low-income communities. These contexts often lack the infrastructure, institutions, and investment required to assess the long-term benefits and risks of a new healthcare device, sanitation solution, or irrigation technology. Recent innovations in measurement are addressing this challenge. Increasingly, researchers are using sensors, satellites, and mobile platforms to automatically or remotely capture rich, finely resolved data from households and communities. There also is growing use of field experiments—adapted from clinical science—to study the changes introduced by a product’s distribution and use. These tools and techniques are enabling researchers to credibly demonstrate the outcomes of development interventions; they are also generating durable lessons about household demand for products and services. More broadly, they inform the process of technology innovation for development—by providing insights into what works, and what does not.