Mobile technology is an extraordinary tool of empowerment and is opening up possibilities in agriculture, education, health as well as transport.
Mobility data is created when someone uses their phone for a call or a text. A user is then registered to the nearest cell tower and their movement is then ascertained when they move from tower to tower. It first really came to light after the Haiti earthquake that devastated so many lives. Crowd sourcing was used to track how many people had been displaced. Future patterns can therefore be predicted following natural disasters so the displaced can be better served. The open source, not for profit project Ushahidi was at the forefront of crowdsourcing following the Haiti earthquake.
In a great leap forward, the giant Mobile Operator, Orange, recently released a huge amount of tracking data on its phone users in Ivory Coast. Getting the big mobile operators to release the data is half the battle and vital in putting data to good measure. Researchers from IBM have started to use this data from people’s cell phones to update Ivory Coast’s transportation system and believe they can cut travel times in Abidjan, Ivory Coast‘s largest city, by 10 per cent.
The work from IBM was done as part of a research project called Data For Development, in which Orange released data on 2.5bn call records from 5mn phones in the Ivory Coast. The cost of traditional surveys is relatively high, especially in developing countries, so mobile phone data is a logical step in helping to update a country’s transportation system.
- African Bus Routes Redrawn Using Cell-Phone Data (technologyreview.com)