Research to Improve Life in African Communities

NYUAD students and researchers conduct fieldwork in Ghana.

Yaw Nyarko, professor of economics and native of Ghana, is the director of NYU Abu Dhabi’s Center for Technology and Economic Development (CTED), a comprehensive research center devoted to the study and application of innovative and cutting-edge technologies that can significantly improve economic growth in developing countries around the world.

What research are you currently working on?

CTED houses several research projects that tackle a range of developmental problems in rural communities. Some of our research includes: mobile phone-based apps to help poor rural farmers; research on commodities exchanges to help farmers sell their produce, access market information, and trade; analyzing road networks and transport data; and mapping apps and drone image collection of community lands, which provides insights for governance and land administration in rural areas. We’re also working on a project called “Biography of a People” to document the cultural heritage and history of the community where we work.

It is important to be immersed with the people who are the ultimate users of our research and our apps.

Yaw Nyarko, professor of economics

Why is fieldwork critical for your research?

Much of our research is informed by the people we intend to help. It is important to
be immersed with the people who are the ultimate users of our research and our apps. We work closely with them to address problems in the community (from the ideation stage, beta testing, and deployment) to develop solutions that impact their lives.

How does your location in Abu Dhabi contribute to your scholarly work?

Abu Dhabi is our headquarters. Our research scientists and software engineers are here. And there are opportunities to involve undergraduate students from both economics and computer science in our research. It’s hands-on. They’re meeting real people. Real farmers, real members of the community. They (students) are helping build our apps, they’re doing coding for us, they’re analyzing economic data. It’s wonderful to have NYUAD students involved.