IOE - Faculty of Education and Society


Guiding policy to help meet the SDGs

The IOE worked on a systematic review to examine the effects of access to electricity interventions on socioeconomic outcomes in low- and middle-income countries.

Cattle pull a number of wooden carts with farmers onboard along a dusty path in Myanmar. (Photo: Sasint / Adobe Stock)

The seventh of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) calls for universal access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy. Electricity is deemed essential for economic growth, and international development concentrates on expanding power grids. 

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) provides financial and technical assistance to promote development in Asia and the Pacific. ADB strives to eradicate extreme poverty in the region. 

ADB knew from impact studies that access to electricity programmes in developing countries had varied results. So to determine the best approach for their energy policy and programme, they wanted to assess existing research on electricity interventions.

To assist with the review, ADB recruited the International Initiative for Impact Evaluation (3ie). 3ie uses high-quality evidence to inform decision-making and improve the lives of people living in poverty in low- and middle-income countries. Its principal funders include the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, UK Aid via the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO), and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.  

In turn, 3ie called on the IOE to help. Janice Tripney, Associate Professor of Social Policy at the UCL Social Research Institute, was one of the review’s authors. Janice had worked on projects before with 3ie and ADB, and, in fact, she worked on a precursor of this project funded by the World Bank.  

The systematic review was published in 2020 and synthesised 126 studies. As befits the rigour of both ADB and 3ie, the review adhered to scientifically recognised review methods and was peer-reviewed and quality assured in line with internationally accepted standards. 

The findings showed modest positive effects on education, socioeconomic welfare, health, and environmental outcomes. The largest effect was in the increased time students spent studying at night, enabled by electric light. The report also highlighted the need for improvements in how future projects are developed and evaluated and that further research is required to fill evidence gaps.

ADB and 3ie have requested that Janice and the IOE bid for further projects.

Image: Sasint / Adobe Stock