Price of Sweets in Nigeria

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Photograph by Chris Upton/Getty ImagesHere’s an ingenious business model: Pay people in developing countries to track prices of consumer goods in their hometowns and transmit the data using mobile phones.

With those data, the San Francisco startup Premise Data can sniff out inflation way before the statistical agencies in those nations have a clue. Local correspondents can be instructed to take pictures to capture other relevant information, including the length of lines outside a particular store or whether a certain AIDS clinic is open when it’s supposed to be. (Disclosure: Bloomberg, the parent company of this magazine, licenses some of Premise’s data for the use of its terminal customers.)

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