Data Miners Put African Phones to Work
To reach poor people, you have to understand where they are.
Cell phones are everywhere, even the poorest countries. And for once, someone's got an idea on how to do some good with all that easily accessible personal information.
Brookings researchers realized that the unprecedented flood of data provided by cell phones means we can map poverty in ways we never could before. It's a lot more efficient collecting digital call patterns to track their habits than anything else available to researchers — quicker too. The maps of poverty in Senegal in Sub-Saharan Africa developed with that data are more detailed than anything previously and better documentation leads to better public policies. Phones are finally being put to work.
The Senegal pilot project has already been successful enough United Nations officials are looking at applying the same methods to new underdeveloped areas. Nice to remember there's more you can do with that information than figure out how to get more people to drunk shop Amazon.