In resource-poor nations, the public sector often lives in an analogue world where piles of paper impede operations and policymakers are hindered by uncertainty about their own strengths and capabilities.
Nonetheless, mobile phones have quickly pervaded the lives of even the poorest: 75 per cent of the world's 5.5 billion mobile subscriptions are in emerging markets. These people are also generating digital trails of anything from their movements to mobile phone top-up patterns.
It may seem that putting this information to use would take vast analytical capacity. But using relatively simple methods, researchers can analyse existing mobile phone data, especially in poor countries, to improve decision-making.