Measuring HDI – the old, the new and the elegant

This is a cross-post of a piece written by Srijit Mishra (Indian Gandhi Institute of Development Research – IGIDR), one of the winners of the GDN Outstanding Research in Development Award in 2013, based on the working paper “Measuring Human Development Index: The old, the new and the elegant” co-authored with Hippu Salk Kristle Nathan

The Human Development Index (HDI), since its inception in 1990, has come up with an indicator for each country that aggregates the three dimensions of health (representing how long and fulfilled a life one lives), literacy (representing knowledge) and income (as a proxy for standard of living) into a single dimension. This was an important departure from income-based measures that focused on a single dimension. Before aggregating across dimensions, each indicator was normalized and took values between zero and unity.[1]

Prior to 2010, the approach followed to aggregate was a simple averaging across dimensions. A problem with this method was that a deficit in one dimension will perfectly substitute an equal attainment in another dimension. Income remaining same, this means that a country where both health and education attainments have the same value (say, 0.4 each) will have the same HDI as another country where health is 0.2 and education is 0.6 (a situation not quite uncommon in some of the Sub-Saharan countries reeling under a HIV/AIDS epidemic a few years ago).[2]

In 2010, to address perfect substitutability across dimensions, the calculation of HDI was aggregated by the geometric mean. Usage of the geometric mean also meant that the ordinal ranking across countries would not change if the maximum used for normalizing changed therefore the pegging of a maximum to a goalpost was done away with. Note that this was an advantage of the method, but not a requirement to begin with, definitely not when millennium development goals that can influence the various outcomes that are of relevance in the measure of HDI are themselves pegged to a goalpost.

We propose another alternative method of aggregation by taking the additive inverse of the distance from the ideal. This method also addresses the perfect substitutability across dimensions. In addition, this proposed method satisfies two other conditions. One is that the emphasis across dimensions should be based on their proportionate shortfall from the ideal (note that this ideal is a goalpost and not be understood as a transcendental ideal) or is shortfall sensitive. The other is that the same gap should be considered worse-off at higher levels of attainment. Or, simply put the gaps should decrease as attainment increases.

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Read “Inclusiveness and human development: The hidden linkage?” on Mishra and Nathan’s research proposal presented at the GDN 14th Annual Conference

To what extent is eliminating Malaria in Uganda using sprays and nets cost effective?

[This is a cross-post on a comparative study conducted by Economic Policy Research Centre (EPRC) as part of the Global Development Network’s project ‘Strengthening Institutions to Improve Public Expenditure Accountability‘]

Despite all the efforts deployed in the fight against it, Malaria still represents a major burden in Uganda as it is one of the main diseases responsible for illness and death throughout the country. According to the Malaria Control Programme of Uganda (MCP), pregnant women, children under five years and HIV-positive people represent the most vulnerable segment of the society due to their low immunity.

In an attempt to add to the tremendous efforts directed at improving health system performance and increasing public awareness about the disease, a new nationwide indoor residual spraying program was announced by the Ministry of Health on September 2nd, 2013. Such program would cost the Government of Uganda around US$ 75 million. As part of the Global Development Network’s project Strengthening Institutions to Improve Public Expenditure Accountability, aiming to help governments utilize their budgets more efficiently, the Economic Policy Research Centre (EPRC) recently conducted a comparative study on the cost-effectiveness of indoor residual spraying and insecticide treated nets.

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Integrated biodiversity conservation, health and community development

Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka, Conservation through Public Health

Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka, Conservation through Public Health

In Uganda, gorillas represent a significant source of foreign exchange earning as they generate around $1,460,000 per year through tourism. They, therefore, contribute indirectly to community development.

But did you know that gorillas and human beings can infect each other, particularly in areas where people have low access to health and hygiene practices?

Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka, Founder and CEO of Conservation Through Public Health – CTPH and one of the GDN Award Finalists for the Most Innovative Development Project, presented today the work of  her organization.  This aims at protecting gorillas by enabling humans, wildlife and livestock to coexist through improving primary health care in and around Africa’s protected areas.

CTPH works closely with community volunteers, Village Health and Conservation Teams – VHCT, to support wildlife health monitoring. Bringing about a positive behavioural change is the key strength of community volunteers, who work to raise the community members’ awareness not only about health and hygiene practices for their own safety, but also regarding biodiversity conservation with the aim to reduce environmental destruction.

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“Climate Change and Economic Development in Africa”, socioeconomic and climate scenarios in the African continent

Climate change and economic development in Africa are pressing issues within the African continent. Although Africa is pressurized by problems of poverty alleviation and health issues, yet lately climate change and economic development became a major concern. While African countries have lower overall and per capita global warming emissions on the planet, they are also likely to suffer from the consequences of climate change. Droughts, famine, desertification, and population displacement are the impacts of such a rising danger within the continent. In the context of high levels of poverty and malnutrition, the priority for many African countries is increasing access to energy services and improving the economic welfare of their people. The African Economic Research Consortium’s (AERC) is organizing its Biannual Research Workshop addressing the topic of “climate change and economic development”. The event is scheduled on Sunday June 2, 2013 at the Mount Meru Hotel, Arusha, Tanzania.

AERC has embarked upon an initiative of an interactive live webcast for the workshop allowing the audience to follow the proceedings on the plenary session. The live web cast is available directly from: videos will also be made available on the YouTube link on the website as the meeting progresses. For updates through Twitter, the AERC twitter handle is @AERCAFRICA and through the RSS link available on the website.

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GDNet’s outreach to policy efforts and South to South learning presented at the “Food Secure Arab World Conference”

In her reflection on the discussions that took place at the Food Secure Arab World Conference, organized by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (UN-ESCWA), Doctor Sherine Ghoneim – Director GDN Cairo – brought up the following questions:

  • How can we maximize the impact of research?
  • How can we inform policy process in a timely fashion?
  • What will it take to make a difference?

Watch highlights from Sherine Ghoneim’s talk and learn more about the type of work GDNet is doing to support Southern researchers and help their research travel further to reach policymakers:

GDNet Participates in the Food Secure Arab World Conference

By Maya Madkour, GDNet

Development practitioners, researchers and policy-makers from the world over convened early February in Beirut, Lebanon to come up with a roadmap for creating a healthy, secure Arab World, free from hunger. Working together to translate research into policy, participants came from a variety of different backgrounds; and of course, GDNet was there.


The Food Secure Arab World Conference, organized by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (UN-ESCWA), called for better policy implementation,  regional knowledge platforms pooling local knowledge, and collaborating with local and international partners on food, nutrition, and water security issues.

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