Mobile phones are already transforming markets by allowing information on prices to be shared, and are showing the potential to transform service delivery in education, health, agriculture and emergencies (hey TH where is that paper huh?).
I’ve recently heard rumours though of a household survey to be carried out in Sudan via mobile phone. Brian Dillon is trying this already in Tanzania with EDI.
The idea is that you do a regular door-to-door survey first, but also take down everyone’s mobile number so that you can make follow-up questions.
The reason that this is so exciting is it allows for the tracking of changes to individuals over time rather than just the usual one-off snapshot. This gives you a much better shot at untangling causality, and figuring out the process of how people get richer, rather than just describing the characteristics of those who are already rich.
And if research is like a piano recital, then just maybe, a massive proliferation of cheap longitudinal data collection and a thousand research papers, could result in just one crucial insight that could transform the lives of millions.