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Monitoring global development aid with machine learning

Malte Toetzke (), Nicolas Banholzer and Stefan Feuerriegel
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Malte Toetzke: ETH Zurich
Nicolas Banholzer: ETH Zurich
Stefan Feuerriegel: LMU Munich

Nature Sustainability, 2022, vol. 5, issue 6, 533-541

Abstract: Abstract Monitoring global development aid provides important evidence for policymakers financing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). To overcome the limitations of existing monitoring, we develop a machine learning framework that enables a comprehensive and granular categorization of development aid activities based on their textual descriptions. Specifically, we cluster the descriptions of ~3.2 million aid activities conducted between 2000 and 2019 totalling US$2.8 trillion. As a result, we generated 173 activity clusters representing the topics of underlying aid activities. Among them, 70 activity clusters cover topics that have not yet been analysed empirically (for example, greenhouse gas emissions reduction and maternal health care). On the basis of our activity clusters, global development aid can be monitored for new topics and at new levels of granularity, allowing the identification of unexplored spatio-temporal disparities. Our framework can be adopted by development finance and policy institutions to promote evidence-based decisions targeting the SDGs.

Date: 2022
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DOI: 10.1038/s41893-022-00874-z

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