The Global Data Lab (GDL) is an independent data and research centre of the Nijmegen School of Management. The lab has data from hundreds of household surveys concerning almost every developing country. Using it, the GDL conducts research on issues including poverty, educational participation and gender inequality. The lab also develops tools for measuring and analysing social progress. Researchers from around the world use these instruments.
Jeroen Smits, Professor of Economic and Human Development, started the lab while working on his PhD in the 1990s and saw how many unused data files on developing countries were in archives. “I thought: if we bring all these files together, we can do comparative research more easily. Then, we can better understand what is happening in developing countries and help solve the problems there. It could make the world a little better.”
A tremendous success
From the outset of the century, Smits has been building an infrastructure to deploy the data files. Since then, the lab has grown tremendously. It now contains data on over 35 million people from almost all developing countries. That data comes from large household surveys by UNICEF and USAID, among others. Smits: “We are constantly importing and standardising new data files and adding them to our central database. On this basis, we can conduct research on poverty, infant mortality and female labour force participation, for example.”
But Smits and his colleagues go a step further. Many development indicators are only available at the national level. But those who study educational participation in Tanzania, for example, find all kinds of regional differences. “That’s why we started creating indicators at the sub-national level, which we make available for free online. This has been a tremendous success: last year, our website received over 200,000 visitors, and that number is still rising. We also offer a sub-national version of the UN Human Development Index. That’s also very popular.”