Saturday, September 22, 2012

Can cellphones be used to learn about conflict events?

Between 2009 and 2011 Columbia University implemented Voix des Kivus in Eastern Congo; an SMS-based pilot project to obtain high quality data about conflict events in real-time from hard-to-access areas. To obtain high-quality data Columbia invented "crowdseeding" -- in contrast to data-collection projects based on "crowdsourcing". Last week the academic study came out discussing data quality and using the data for a downstream experiment to assess the conflict effects of international aid. The abstract:
Poor quality data about conflict events weakens humanitarian responses and hinders academic research on the dynamics of violence. To address this problem we piloted a data gathering system in Eastern Congo in which reporters in randomly selected villages reported on events in real-time. We describe the data generated through this system and use it to implement a downstream experiment that illustrates how the data can be used. We take advantage of exogenous variation in the allocation of development aid to assess whether aid is associated with increased or reduced violence. Our data suggests that aid had a negative effect on conflict. Critically, by exploiting the continuous nature of our data, we also highlight the sensitivity of estimates of effects to the timing of measurement.

The complete study can be found HERE.

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