Opportunity to Impact
Developing countries face many similar problems: Poverty, lack of access to affordable energy sources, pollution, limited resources for natural disasters and spread of epidemics. Through the use of big data, the telecom industry has the opportunity to help these countries create real solutions to these issues. For me, there are some very promising solutions we’re already seeing.
What Type of Data?
The mobile branch of telecom and mobile network data created presents the biggest opportunity, with 80% of the 6 billion mobile phones in developing regions.
Partnerships With Private Sector
The private sector has the data and available resources to make use of their information in life-saving situations. GSMA (A trade body that represents mobile networks) launched an initiative in February 2017 called “Big Data for Social Good”. They partnered with Data 2X, DIAL, GPSDD, Be He@lthy Be Mobile, OCHA, UN Global Pulse, UNDP, UNHCR, UNICEF, WFP, and the World Bank. With their data, telecoms can see where people are moving when a natural disaster occurs, pollution can be mapped, and the spread of infectious diseases monitored. This is shared with governments and these global relief agencies, allowing them to make informed decisions on how to best address the situation. The data is dispersed without compromising the privacy of the individual.
How Does it Work?
One example is that of UNICEF and Telefonica partnering to work on UNICEF’s “Magic Box”. This platform analyzes mobile data in real-time, allowing them to plan a strategic response to any emergency situation and proactively inform people in the area how to react.
Where resources are limited Magic Box can help make the most of what is available. This type of platform combined with distributed ledger or blockchain technology could become even more useful in disaster situations. These ledgers would let relief efforts know where resources are being sent, while keeping an inventory. Where all of this is occuring could be tracked, helping to decide where to move next given what is still available.
In a press release from Big Data for Social Good, in February, they reported the successes they’ve had implementing mobility data for social good. In India, they observed mobility patterns to pinpoint areas of increased likelihood of getting tuberculosis. Proactive measures in these areas will help control the spread of this disease and improve national health.
São Paulo, Brazil’s capital city, is seeing environmental benefits by using mobile network data to manage air pollution. The city can plan when alternative routes need to be taken decrease pollution in target areas. In Nuremberg, Germany, they’re using the same process to determine the highest pollution areas. This is much more cost effective than typical use of surveys and sensors.
Information Leads to Action
These partnerships and their initiatives are designed to inform government and relief agencies how to best address their situations. I think the analytics gleaned from these systems will give decision-makers the ability to act quickly, in the most effective manner possible. As Telecoms continue their resolve to use their data for good, I believe that the people using this information can make a difference. The current applications have brought an exciting glimpse into the future of how Telecoms can help. There are some great opportunities for being involved in making an impact for social good. Learn more about how you or your organization can take action by partnering with groups like Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data and World Food Programme