Talking Data-Driven Development with Haiti’s Prime Minister
On April 22, 2013 the Earth Institute’s Haiti Research and Policy Program at the Center on Globalization and Sustainable Development welcomed Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe to the Spring 2013 Haiti Dialogue Series and the Columbia University World Leader’s Forum.
The prime minister and Haitian diplomats met with Earth Institute senior researchers to discuss the strategies for the Haitian government’s national-scale monitoring, planning and implementation development programs. Haitian media and Earth Institute capstone students were also invited to the program.
The Earth Institute – scientists and students alike – have been working in Haiti on a range of projects since 2009. Tatiana Wah, director of the Haiti Research and Policy Program has articulated a vision for Haiti’s future in which national spatial-social-economic development programs are carried out through systematic and holistic planning and policy formulation based on quantifiable integrated development objectives. This requires robust monitoring systems, targeted prioritization and sequenced interventions to maximize existing financial resources, and cost-effective program design.
The prime minister indicated that linking comprehensive monitoring tools to government programs would improve the strategic allocation of limited resources and enhance impact assessments, critical to aid effectiveness. The prime ministers’ top advisors also requested support to provide executive training for government officials on cutting edge, integrated development packages.
The Earth Institute senior researchers elaborated on the previous research in Haiti that generated the foundational data system constructed for a region of the South Department. The Earth Institute team’s work has demonstrated cost-effective ways to provide critical data systems that are scalable to national level; information that puts the government back in the driver’s seat to make crucial policy decisions about development priorities and coordinate investments. The utility of such data systems have been demonstrated in other countries like the CGSD supported program in Nigeria, where our team described the links between online data visualization platforms and district planning and development investment packages based on key development objective framework like the Millennium Development Goals.
Other researchers described in greater detail the monitoring platform launched in the south of Haiti in 2012. [See previous reports on integrated baseline assessments.] This pilot system, developed with input from multiple Earth Institute centers, research scholars and the government of Haiti, include updated high-resolution land use and land cover mapping, landscape degradation surveillance surveys, household surveys on socio-economic and health indicators, climate monitoring stations and key facilities inventory for an entire geographic region. It also included pilots for mobile phone technology as rapid, low-cost data collection tools ranging from education literacy and numeracy tests to agricultural productivity and yield monitoring to mobile-health and rapid flood damage assessments.
Additional Earth Institute team members responded to questions by the prime minister and delegation on specific education, agriculture and health programs that build from robust data systems. We shared our observations from previous analysis and work in Haiti on the opportunities for agricultural sector programs that could dramatically increase yield rates and link agriculture extension agents to market development initiatives, including equipping agents with multi-use mobile phones for program tracking, subsidy distribution and crop productivity monitoring in the ICT4Ag program. We spoke of the Haitian rural health system challenges and offered thoughts on the potential impact of community health workers to reach larger number of Haitian communities. And we addressed challenges in the education sector with examples in India and the Millennium Village Projects where programs address access and completion rates as well as quality of education. Team members demonstrated how mobile cell phone-based monitoring tools have been deployed globally by the Earth Institute, offering critical data on which to develop costed proposals for national-scale options in sustainable development programming.
The prime minister concluded the discussion by noting the goal of the government in utilizing powerful planning tools to help local and national agencies and non-governmental organizations coordinate aid effectively and to provide a more transparent environment for greater investment and economic development.
The World Leader’s Forum event that followed the Haiti Research and Policy dialogue brought together 200 students and faculty to hear the prime minister’s perspective and policy approach to balancing foreign direct investments, disaster risks and development in Haiti.
For the full World Leader’s Forum video and information please click here: http://www.worldleaders.columbia.edu/events/laurent-lamothe-prime-minister-republic-haiti