TA 2. Innovations and synergies across different data ecosystems

(TA2.05) Operationalising Mobile Phone Network Data for Development and Humanitarian Action


GCC-Stat Hall October 22, 2018 9:00 am - 10:15 am

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Robert Kirkpatrick
Syed Raza
Emily Chirwa
Esperanza Magpantay
Derval Usher
Darren Hanniffy
Rachel Sibande


How has mobile network data been used to inform policy? What building blocks need to be in place to leverage mobile phone network data for real-time policy analysis, decision making and impact tracking?

Anonymised mobile network data contains information about population movements, density, location, social patterns, finances and even ambient environmental conditions. As this data is uniquely detailed and tractable, it can capture information not easily found from other sources at a scale that would be difficult to recreate through other means. Once anonymized and aggregated to appropriate levels, mobile network data can provide a variety of insights with tremendous value for development partners, including:

  1. Mobility: As calls and messages are sent and received through the cell towers of a mobile network, records are produced that can reveal community or population-level movements. This data has particular relevance in the wake of natural disasters or disease outbreaks, but it is also useful for tracking migration and for urban planning.
  2. Social Interaction: Information about how groups of individuals engage with their social community, including who they call, how often they speak with these contacts, and how long they speak with them, can be used to understand behaviour and socio-economic trends.
  3. Economic Activity: Monthly airtime top-up patterns, consumption of value-added services, and the use of mobile financial services can be used to extrapolate insights about the economic health and resilience of a community.

Some governments and NGOs already recognise the benefits and are using insights drawn from mobile network data for a range of development and humanitarian applications. When aggregated and combined with routine data, mobile network data leads to enhanced decision-making, resource allocation and improved service delivery. Using it can also save time and money over other data collection methods. In a number of instances where mobile network data has been available on a timely and secure basis, respecting individuals’ privacy and safeguarding personal data, the resulting analyses have proven to contribute to health, agriculture, education and other Sustainable Development Goals.

This session explores the operational aspects of using mobile phone network data as a public good. Participants will leave with a clear understanding of the value of the dataset for public policy and operational delivery, as well as the practices and business models for and challenges to operationalising the data type.