The hidden potential of mobile phone data: Insights on COVID-19 in The Gambia
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the value of high-frequency, localized data in inferring the economic impact of shocks to inform decision making. This includes the use of publicly available nightlights, air quality, and aggregated location data. Since tracking mobility is crucial during a pandemic, researchers have worked with governments and mobile network operators to leverage Call Detail Record (CDR) data, aggregated and anonymized cell-phone data. CDR data is used to understand migration patterns, create poverty maps, and estimate household’s economic characteristics. However, CDR data raises privacy concerns, requiring strict protocols restricting access and ensuring confidentiality. In developing countries, the lack of capacity and data access policies can constrain the creation of durable data pipelines linking data availability, analysis, and policymaking.
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