Essays on the digital lives of the poor and using data against malnutrition

Wheeler Institute for Business and Development PhD Award 2020

The Wheeler Institute recognises Alp Sungu’s research. 

Mobile phones play an integral role in the development agenda through making knowledge transfer possible. Today, the poor have greater access to mobile phones than to clean water. However, little is known about how they use their mobile data: in particular, whether they perceive the mobile phone as a lever to pull themselves out of poverty or as a source of entertainment. This research provides experimental evidence on how improved mobile data services can make Indian slum dwellers better off – through improved engagement with advancement-enabling apps and greater access to useful information. 

Malnutrition, in all its forms, is one of the most pressing challenges in the world, accounting for more than half of all deaths of children under five years old and costing the global economy nearly $5.5 trillion per year. The goal of this research is to better understand and find effective approaches to alleviate malnutrition, the single greatest constraint on global development. 

The potential impact   

Theories and assumptions tailored for businesses in developed countries do not necessarily hold in emerging markets. Therefore, it is important for businesses to understand the everyday experience of living in poverty to design better services and overcome barriers for entering ‘bottom of the pyramid’ markets. Alp’s research aims to deliver social-science evidence on pathways to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of mobile-phone-based information dissemination systems and nutrition-targeted food subsidies.  

“My research motivation is to understand rational and irrational decision-making processes of the poor in developing countries to design effective policies that improve service systems.” 

Alp Sungu, PhD student, Management Science and Operations, graduating class 2022 at London Business School 


  • Kamalini Ramdas, Professor of Management Science and Operations, London Business School 
  • Ali Aouad, Assistant Professor of Management Science and Operations, London Business School 

About Alp Sungu
PhD student, Management Science and Operations 
Supervisor: Kamalini Ramdas, Professor of Management Science and Operations  
Academic focus: In his research, Alp is interested in understanding operational restrictions in resource-limited environments, with the aim to improve the delivery of services targeting the poor. Alp’s research examines mobile data usage of the poor and nutrition challenges in urban slums. 

About the Wheeler Institute for Business and Development PhD Award 

The Wheeler Institute is committed to supporting the development of early career researchers.  The Wheeler Institute PhD Award is a prestigious recognition of cutting-edge research that highlights the merit of the individual PhD student’s academic focus. The award is open to all current PhD students at London Business School whose research is aligned to the Institute’s objectives. Find out more

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