The University of Massachusetts Amherst


Assistant Professor Jay Taneja of the Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) Department (and an adjunct in Computer Science Department) is a key contributor to a pioneering textbook titled Introduction to Development Engineering: A Framework with Applications from the Field. The book was produced by the University of California Berkeley’s Development Impact Lab (DIL), co-managed by the Center for Effective Global Action and the Blum Center for Developing Economies, and published by Springer Publishing Company.

As the press kit for the publication explains, “The textbook offers a framework—carefully refined over the past ten years with the generous support of USAID and the Higher Education Solutions Network—for iteratively designing and testing innovative solutions to global poverty in low- and middle-income countries. Since its release on September 9th, the textbook has been downloaded from publisher Springer’s website more than 30,000 times.”

The textbook is the first one ever to introduce the new field of development engineering, focusing on engineering improvements to boost the economies of developing regions. Taneja’s major contribution is to co-author part of a section about “energy electrification and access to the grid is key to economic development.”

For a chapter in that section, Taneja and his eight co-authors detail a case study dealing with “measuring grid reliability in Ghana.” This case study is based in large part on a project in which Taneja participated, beginning in 2017, when he was a sub-awardee in a $680,265 grant from the Millennium Challenge Corporation for a proposal titled "A Pilot Study of Novel Low-Cost Technologies for Measuring Electricity Reliability in Urban Ghana."

Taneja was collaborating on that research with Cal Berkeley’s DIL and that university’s Energy Institute at the Haas School of Business to conduct a pilot deployment of a suite of DIL-developed technologies for monitoring and evaluating the performance and reliability of the electric power distribution grid in Ghana.

Now the knowledge gained from that Ghana project helps to power a chapter in the new textbook on development engineering.

As Taneja and his co-authors introduce this chapter of their textbook, “The power grid is arguably the most complicated machine humanity has built, and the payoffs from this marvel have been transformative. No country has achieved economic industrialization without significant increases in energy use.”

The authors go on to says that “Investments in the electricity sector in the developing world have often focused on increasing access to electricity by expanding the grid. There has been less focus on increasing the quality of electricity provided by the existing grid. However, poor reliability is often associated with a reduction in the demand, utilization, and social benefit of electricity.”

In effect, Taneja’s contributions to the new textbook involve measuring, assessing, engineering, and testing much more grid reliability in developing countries to achieve quality-of-life benefits for all, grassroots social improvements, and powerful economic development and growth for the target regions.

Taneja heads the STIMA Lab in the ECE department. As he says about his research, “I study the application of computing tools to measuring and managing infrastructure in industrialized and developing regions, including energy and building systems, but also transportation, water, and sanitation systems.” (March 2023)

Article posted in Research