Vodafone Americas Foundation and UN Global Pulse to Embark on Study on State of Mobile Data for Social Impact

Global PulseUnited Nations Global Pulse will partner with the Vodafone Americas Foundation to embark on a several month study to evaluate the state of mobile data for social impact.

Consultations begin today with a panel discussion among industry experts on “data for development” at this year’s GSMA Mobile 360 – Africa conference in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

More than 70 percent of the population of many African and South Asian countries now either own or have access to a mobile phone and are generating data “footprints.” Meanwhile, a growing body of recent scientific evidence has shown that data derived from mobile phone usage activity, if aggregated properly, can be used to generate insights on a range of development and humanitarian issues. For example, mobile data can help track population movement patterns after a disaster, measure congestion and optimize transportation networks, model the spread of disease, or even estimate poverty at the community level.

Yet, despite nearly a decade of research in the field, a lack overall of awareness and understanding remains on the real-world potential of “mobile data for development” due to a number of systemic barriers.

On the heels of the adoption of the new UN Sustainable Development Goals and the international community’s call for a “data revolution for sustainable development,” the study will underscore the critical need for more timely and granular data to help measure and quantify development progress as well as help frame future development plans.

Through this study, UN Global Pulse and the Vodafone Americas Foundation aim to survey today’s landscape through a series of expert consultations and analysis of existing case studies, assess the current barriers to scale, and make recommendations for a way forward. The study is intended to expand global awareness and knowledge of the value of responsibly harnessing mobile phone data to support global development and humanitarian efforts, and catalyze investments and action in the field of “mobile data for development.”

Results will be published in early 2017. Once complete, the study findings will be available to any individuals and organization who wish to be involved in advancing the practice of leveraging mobile data for social impact.