How Technology Can Aid Resettlement Planning and Implementation

Tablet-based surveys were undertaken for the project in Tamil Nadu, India. Photo credit: Economic Perspectives Consulting (EPC) Private Limited, Chennai.

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Experience from two projects shows digital tools for database management help ensure a fair and transparent process and efficient resource allocation.


Database management is critical for effectively and successfully implementing resettlement aspects of development projects. Resettlement planning and implementation need dependable and accurate data reflecting the precise impacts on affected persons, their socioeconomic condition, and vulnerability status to develop and implement appropriate entitlement policies. Systematic data management before, during, and after the resettlement implementation process is the key to success.

Data management in involuntary resettlement involves collecting, organizing, and analyzing information related to affected persons and their losses. It supports project planners, implementers, and other stakeholders in informed decision-making, devising and implementing equitable, socially, and environmentally responsible strategies. Comprehensive inventory of loss and baseline data on ownership, demographics, education levels, livelihoods, gender, and vulnerabilities of affected persons enables better planning by identifying their specific needs and concerns and proposing targeted resettlement interventions to address the unique requirements and challenges while maximizing the positive impact. Robust baseline data at the planning stage also helps identify the requirement for convergence with various government schemes, the need to provide alternate land and assets, targeted skills upgrading, and income generation activities, thereby reducing the impoverishment risks and supporting resilience-building among affected persons and communities. It also helps build the foundation for developing a strong implementation and monitoring system and a basis for benchmark comparisons and impact assessments.

Managing resettlement data is challenging, especially in projects with large-scale impacts. Vast amounts of data are generated and often need to be updated to reflect changes in project design and asset ownership during project implementation. Technological advancement in recent years has provided tools that ensure improved accuracy, analysis, and management of databases.

This article focuses on the use of information technology tools to manage resettlement databases, citing examples from two ongoing projects funded by the Asian Development Bank: (i) Inclusive, Resilient, and Sustainable Housing for Urban Poor Sector Project and (ii) Dhaka Environmentally Sustainable Water Supply Project.

What are the objectives of resettlement database management?

In the context of involuntary resettlement, database management has seven objectives:

  1. to have in place a system (preferably web-based) to store and manage resettlement data to understand the pre- and post-project situation;
  2. to capture the nature and magnitude of losses;
  3. to determine the entitlements;
  4. to track the progress of activities related to land acquisition and involuntary resettlement;
  5. to monitor progress on compensation disbursement and grievance resolution;
  6. to track activities related to relocation, skills training and livelihood restoration/enhancement,
  7. assistance to vulnerable, and restoration of common property resources; and
  8. to provide reliable and timely information for decision-making to project authorities and resettlement specialists.
Tamil Nadu Housing Project: Collecting the Baseline Data

In the Inclusive, Resilient, and Sustainable Housing for Urban Poor Sector Project, an assessment was carried out to establish the baseline data, including in-depth demographic and socioeconomic profiles of affected persons and a complete inventory of livelihood and asset losses.

The affordable housing project in India's Tamil Nadu state involves the large-scale relocation of more than 6,000 households. It includes a pilot to integrate the graduation approach with resettlement planning, which requires comprehensive and detailed baseline data.

ADB developed the draft survey tool in consultation with the executing agency, and a baseline survey was conducted using the computer-assisted personal interviewing (CAPI) method. The field teams were trained and used tablets to collect the data through a software platform called Survey Solutions,[1] an Android-based application later synchronized to a cloud-based centralized database.

The data collection using the Survey Solutions "Interviewer" Android application ensured that robust security measures were in place to safeguard sensitive information. The tablet lock screen passwords and application-specific passwords fortified physical and digital access for authorized personnel only. The AES Encryption Algorithm for data encryption ensured that the stored data remained safe even if the device's security was breached.

CAPI helped to streamline the interview process and ensured that high-quality data was collected by facilitating logic checks, highlighting the errors, and following the right sequence. It also helped to reduce extensive data cleaning and entry. This resolved common data collection problems and speeded up data availability, making it easier to analyze the resettlement impacts and prepare the strategy to mitigate the impoverishment risks.

The robustness of the data collected contributed to the design of a unique resettlement program, integrating the graduation approach, which has typically been used in the arena of poverty reduction.

Dhaka Water Project: From Creating a Database to Tracking Resettlement Implementation

The surface water supply augmentation scheme in Bangladesh’s capital Dhaka is expected to have resettlement impacts on more than 3,500 households, of which 500 would experience major impacts. To support the planning and implementation of the project, a web-based database management system was developed to support managing, storing and reporting on affected persons' data, besides monitoring the compensation process. The system was created using computer programs, tools, and languages like SQL (a language for working with databases) and PHP (a tool for creating dynamic websites).[2]

The data was collected in a conventional manner—pen and paper personal interviewing, and then populated in the system. A simple and easy-to-use interface was developed for entering census or inventory of loss data, allowing it to be accessed simultaneously from various locations.

The system allowed automatic backup, which ensured data protection, and detected errors, which helped maintain consistency and accuracy. It facilitated the generation of separate files on each affected person, which included such information as losses and compensation due.

The system can generate several types of reports (e.g., census survey reports, joint verification reports, progress report on compensation) required at different stages in the resettlement planning and implementation monitoring cycle. At the planning stage, the system helped identify impacts on affected persons, thereby supporting decision-making, resource allocation, and targeted assistance. During implementation, the application supported the generation of payment vouchers and analytical data on the progress of resettlement implementation.

The database management system can retain copies of photographs, identity cards, compensation awards, and payment vouchers. It can be used for monitoring payments that cannot be disbursed to affected persons because of legal issues and that are deposited in a dedicated account. The system adheres to robust measures and protocols to ensure privacy and data security, using role-based access control.

Way Forward

Effective and robust database management is crucial in the comprehensive and successful planning and implementation of resettlement activities in development projects. It provides support to ensure that the resettlement process is conducted fairly and transparently with adequate and timely allocation of resources, robust and real-time monitoring, and better decision-making.

The availability of comprehensive data allows for the effective and fast redress of grievances raised by affected individuals during the implementation process. Data gathered regularly and managed correctly is useful for accurate and targeted course correction in the resettlement process, ensuring efficiency in use of resources.

Furthermore, robust data supports the authorities in monitoring the progress of interventions, offering feedback that facilitates corrective actions, and adapting new strategies for better implementation.

Photographs and videos that capture and record asset details and conditions can be efficiently stored in the system, enabling quick and cost-effective retrieval while avoiding duplication.

It is important to embrace available technological solutions and keep abreast of any technological updates, such as artificial intelligence, to enable a paradigm shift in resettlement data management and ensure future readiness.

For ADB and its development partners, it would be important to consider having customizable, secure online applications for baseline database creation and management of resettlement plan implementation that cater to the particular needs of a project.

Prior to resettlement activities, having qualified experts for database management at executing and implementing agency levels, coupled with the provision of equipment and training of people on the ground, would go a long way in the creation of user-friendly database management systems for planning and implementation.

[1] Survey Solutions is a free CAPI software developed by the World Bank, which offers a cost-effective, sustainable solution for conducting complex and large-scale surveys.

[2] SQL stands for structured query language, and PHP is a recursive acronym for "PHP: Hypertext Preprocessor."

Saswati Ghosh Belliappa
Senior Safeguards Specialist, Office of Safeguards, Asian Development Bank

Saswati Ghosh Belliappa joined ADB in 2017 as a safeguards specialist. An urban and regional planner by training, she specializes in social safeguards and social development.

Suhail Mircha
Senior Safeguards Officer, South Asia Department, Asian Development Bank

Suhail Mircha is a Senior Safeguards Officer at ADB's India Resident Mission, South Asia Department. He is a development professional by training, with 18 years of experience in implementing ADB’s social safeguard requirements.

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