Middle East and North Africa (MENA)

Overview

Spanning from the northern portion of the African Continent to the countries of the Middle East, this region encompasses the vast geographic area from the Black Sea to the Arabian Sea. It is also home to the “Fertile Crescent”, which is commonly associated with the dawn of modern human civilization. With a long and storied history, the region is now home to over half a billion people. MENA is in many ways a study in extremes, with some of the world’s richest countries existing alongside some of the poorest and most conflict-affected. The source of much of this wealth, petroleum, has also been continuous since its discovery. Development challenges faced by the region include active conflicts (which have caused the forcible displacement of millions), high unemployment and poverty rates in some countries, and the effects of a changing climate on many already warm and arid regions. 

Projects

Exploiting the Possibilities Offered by Big Data to Monitor the Achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals in Morocco

This project, supported by UNDP Morocco and the Moroccan Ministry of Economy and Finance, aimed to improve official statistical methodologies by using Big Data, in order to improve the timeliness and reliability of progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals. Aditionally, this project contributed to strengthening the Moroccan digital ecosystem by improving the design, implementation, and monitoring of fair public policies, and informing better investment decisions towards achieving g the SDGs. Our organization conducted a benchmark study and developed three pilot publications to monitor priority indicators for sustainable development in Morocco: mental health (target 3.4) using Google Trends data; water stress (indicator 6.4.2) using earth observation; and ICT skills (indicator 4.4.1) using data collected through an online survey in Facebook.

Regional Consultations: Towards Real Diversity and Gender Equality in Artificial Intelligence – Global Partnership on Artificial Intelligence Project

This project aims to provide the AI ecosystem, in particular the member States of the Global Partnership on AI (GPAI), with a framework including concrete tools and recommendations to ensure diversity and gender equality throughout the AI cycle based on existing guidelines, good local practices from around the world, international human rights and gender equality standards.

The Patrick J. McGovern Foundation Data Feminism Grant

The Patrick J. McGovern Foundation (PJMF) awarded DPA’s Data Feminism Program a twelve-month, $300,000 grant to support our work advancing intersectional, data-driven research, training and advocacy to continue fostering gender equality across Latin America and the Caribbean, the MENA region and Sub-Saharan Africa. In 2023, the grant was renewed for $400,000 to continue supporting existing and new Data Feminism Initiatives, including the Book and Movie Club, “Technology Through Feminist Lenses.”

“Data for Refugees” (D4R) Challenge

For this challenge, DPA collaborated with various Turkish institutions such as Türk Telkom (the country’s leading telecommunication operator) in collaboration with Boğaziçi University, TÜBİTAK (Turkey’s Scientific and Technological Research Council), the MIT Media Lab, FBK, IOM, UNHCR, UNICEF, to make several anonymized datasets of mobile phone users available to international research teams. The goal was to develop projects to analyze and improve the living conditions of Syrian refugees in Turkey, with a specific focus on safety, health, education, unemployment, and integration.

Two publications resulted from this project, the article “Data for Refugees: The D4R Challenge on Mobility of Syrian Refugees in Turkey”, and a chapter of the book “Guide to Mobile Data Analytics in Refugee Scenarios”.

 

Mental Health and Gender Inequality in the MENA Region: An Analysis of Shock Related Factors Within the Context of the COVID-19 Pandemic

In partnership with the Agence française de développement (AFD)  and the Economic Research Forum (ERF), DPA produced a research paper investigating the potential associations between the socioeconomic impacts of COVID-19 on gendered mental health inequalities in the MENA region. The study adopted a mixed-methods approach, including a thorough literature review and quantitative data analysis using the Oaxaca-Blinder (OB) decomposition model. The results of this study were used to produce a policy paper with targeted recommendations to mitigate the impacts of the pandemic on women’s mental health and improve their social and economic well-being.

Leveraging Big Data Sources for COVID-19 Response, Policy Evaluation and Analysis in Lebanon and Jordan

Following an initial collaboration with UN ESCWA for the assessment “Leveraging Behavioral and Humanitarian Data Sources to Analyze the Development Challenges Faced by Syrian Refugees and Host Communities in Lebanon”, this project focused on utilizing non-traditional Big Data sources, such as social media and Google search data, to provide timely insights in crisis settings on key topics (economic indicators, access to food, sentiments around specific policies, etc). The DPA team collaborated closely with the Central Administration of Statistics (CAS) of Lebanon and the Department of Statistics (DoS) of Jordan and held several trainings and workshops around the project output.

Leveraging Behavioral and Humanitarian Data Sources to Analyze the Development Challenges Faced by Syrian Refugees and Host Communities in Lebanon

In partnership with United Nations Economic and Social Commission for West Asia (UN ESCWA) and the Qatar Computer Research Institute (QCRI), this project aimed to understand the extent to which particular sets of non-traditional data sources — or crumb — and methodologies related to Artificial Intelligence can provide insights on the living conditions of Syrian Refugees and host communities in Lebanon. In particular, indicators related to human capital, poverty and demographics were explored. Data from the Central Administration of Statistics (CAS), UN agencies, telecom operators, social network data, amongst others, were used to shed light on the living conditions and interactions of Syrian refugees and local communities in Lebanon. Grounded in the Lebanese context, the project showed how these types of approaches may help national, international and local organizations develop better policies and programmes to meet these populations’ needs, while also providing pathways for them to weigh in on access to data about them.

Measuring the Unmeasured: Innovative Approaches to Measuring SDG Tier III Indicators

In partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), DPA provided support to the Europe and Central Asia Regional Hub in Istanbul in the project “Measuring the Unmeasured” to contribute to SDG measurement and achievement. The effective use of data for public policy is of critical importance to the UN in its efforts to strengthen evidence-based programming and policy development; in particular, generating, analyzing, presenting, and using data is vital to global and regional efforts to monitor and promote the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Our project aims were: scoping, developing, and testing different methods for measuring Tier III indicators of high SDGs priorities for 11 countries in Arab States, Europe & Central Asia, and Asia Pacific; with the main goal of utilizing this information into policy responses.

Strategic Evaluation of the World Food Programme’s (WFP) Use of Technology in Constrained Environments

This evaluation, developed in collaboration with ADE, looked at the extent to which WFP has effectively and efficiently deployed the most appropriate Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs), and how, why and under which conditions the use of technologies has contributed to management and program objectives. The team designed a mixed methods approach consistent with WFP’s proposed analytical framework and outlined the factors affecting technological innovation and diffusion. In addition, six case studies were conducted in Jordan, Niger, Iraq, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Bangladesh.