Rajiv Shah

Nobel Conference 57

Rajiv Shah

On Rajiv Shah’s second day on the job as Administrator for the United States Agency for International Development, an earthquake struck Haiti, killing tens of thousands of people. He led the US effort to respond to this crisis. In the years that followed, his position brought him to address famine in Somalia and the ebola epidemic in West Africa. Those very different experiences led him to realize how many lives were being lost quite literally because of inadequate data. His TED talk, “Data-driven compassion: what Haiti, Somalia and Ebola teach us,” argues for the need to make systematic data collection a more robust feature of humanitarian aid. He extended this argument in a book chapter, “Foreign Assistance and the Revolution of Rigor,” where he lays out a model for improving US foreign aid programs by using data-driven evidence. 

As the president of the Rockefeller Foundation, Shah is responsible for directing its $5 billion endowment. Initially focusing on combating poverty in the developing world, the Foundation has shifted focus during the pandemic to fighting pandemics in the U.S. and abroad. The Foundation partners with Mastercard on an initiative called DATA.org, “a platform for partnerships to expand further the field of data science for social impact, and to ensure that non-profit and civic organizations are well-positioned to take advantage of the data revolution.”

Shah holds an MD degree as well as an MA in healthcare management and economics. He is the recipient of the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Award, the highest official honor for non-resident Indian, awarded by the President of India, and also the U.S. Secretary of State’s Distinguished Service Award.