Jonars Spielberg

Research Affiliate

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Jonars is a Ph.D. candidate in International Development in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning at MIT. Broadly, he studies the role services and technologies play in international development and poverty alleviation efforts. His research tries to understand how people make decisions about which services and technologies to use, as well as how the organizations responsible for providing them operate. Jonars’ dissertation research investigates how interactions between bureaucrats and smallholder farmers shape irrigation management processes and outcomes, using Senegal’s northern agricultural zone as a case study. This research emphasizes the material consequences of everyday practices and offers details about the technical and organizational aspects that underpin joint water management and how they can, under certain conditions, address pressing equity and sustainability challenges.

Between 2013-2017, Jonars worked on MIT D-Lab's Comprehensive Initiative on Technology Evaluation, led by MIT D-Lab since 2017. With CITE, he conducted research on the adoption of household products, such as solar lanterns and water filters, among poor and disadvantaged communities in East Africa and South Asia. His current work with D-Lab | CITE explores Digital Financial Services for Smallholder Farmers and Access to Affordable Bicycles in Sub-Saharan Africa. Jonars is also affiliated with MIT’s Abdul Latif Jameel Water and Food Systems Lab and Martin Family Society of Fellows for Sustainability. During the 2019-2020 academic year, he was a Fulbright Student Fellow in Senegal conducting fieldwork. Jonars holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in International Relations from Michigan State University and a Master of Arts degree in International Environmental Policy from Boston University.