Minister of Togo addresses the country’s fully digital social assistance programme in an interview with IPC-IG researchers
Novissi is a fully digital social assistance programme, which was implemented by the Government of Togo through its Ministry of Digital Economy and Transformation, to respond to the social challenges resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. It started as an unconditional cash transfer that aimed to assist informal workers whose livelihoods had been upended. However, four months after its creation the programme moved beyond targeting only informal workers to include all adults in the country, except civil servants.
The Novissi programme is one of the case studies that is being analysed by a project which aims at “assessing social protection system performance and leveraging digital innovations in rural areas”, developed by the IPC-IG in partnership with the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO).
To understand more about Novissi, on 26 August IPC-IG researchers Mariana Balboni, João Pedro Dytz, Varsha Lakshmi and FAO’s social protection specialist, Omar Benammour, interviewed Togo’s Minister of Digital Economy and Transformation, Ms. Cina Lawson, who explained how artificial intelligence was used to map beneficiaries and establish the benefit value.
They have partnered with the University of California, Berkeley to develop a poverty map via satellite imagery and carry out poverty surveys funded by the World Bank. This allowed the Ministry to rank all townships, from poorest to richest.
“Then the question was: ‘who are the poor?’ I know where they are, but I don't pay townships, I pay individuals. I have to nominally have the telephone numbers of people to pay. From there, we worked with mobile operators and an artificial intelligence algorithm. (…) Once we had the phone number, we sent an SMS asking people to register with their biometric card. So, behind each registration there was an individual identified geometrically, since it was with his number, with his biometric voter card that this person had to register”, recalls Ms Lawson.
This joint project by the IPC-IG and FAO will also analyse eight schemes featuring digital innovations to provide social protection to rural areas. Representatives from Turkey, Jordan and Morocco have already been interviewed. The remaining programmes that will be studied are from Argentina, Cambodia, Philippines and Uganda. A Research Report featuring the outcomes of the study is set to be launched by the end of the year.