A flood of data is created every day...
By analysing patterns from mobile phone usage, a team of researchers in San Francisco is able to predict the magnitude of a disease
outbreak half way around the world. Similarly, an aid agency sees early warning signs of a drought condition in a remote Sub-Saharan
region, allowing the agency to get a head start on mobilising its resources and save many more lives. Much attention is paid to the vital services that
mobile phone technology has brought to billions of people in the developing world. But now many policy-makers, corporate leaders and development
experts are realising the potential applications, like the examples above, for the enormous amounts of data created by and about the individuals who use
these services. Sources such as online or mobile financial transactions, social media traffic, and GPS coordinates now generate over 2.5 quintillion bytes
of so-called "big data" every day. And the growth of mobile data traffic from subscribers in emerging markets is expected to exceed 100% annually
The data emanating from mobile phones holds particular promise, in part because for many low income people it is their only form of interactive
technology, but it is also easier to link mobile generated data to individuals. This data can paint a picture about the needs and behaviour of individual
users rather than simply the population as a whole. Building user-centric solutions offers compelling possibilities for providing better access to services in
health, education, financial services, and agriculture for people living in poverty.
Data gleaned from mobile money services can provide deep insight into spending and saving habits across sectors and regions. Digital payment histories can allow
individuals to build credit histories, making them candidates for loans and other credit-based financial services.
Data derived from the use of mobile value-added services can be used to improve public-sector understanding of educational needs and knowledge
gaps, allowing more targeted and timely initiatives to disseminate critical information.
Data collected through mobile devices, whether captured by health workers, submitted by individuals, or analysed in the form of data exhaust, can be a crucial tool in
understanding population health trends or stopping outbreaks. When collected in the context of individual electronic health records, this data
not only improves continuity of care for the individual, but it can be used to create massive datasets with which treatments and outcomes can be compared in an
efficient and cost effective manner.
Mobile payments for agricultural products, input purchases and subsidies may help governments better predict food production trends and incentives. This knowledge can be used to ensure the availability of proper crop storage, reduce waste and spoilage, and provide better information about what types of financial services are needed by farmers. Mobile use patterns may also help governments and development organisations identify regions in distress so that targeted assistance can be directed to them. Early detection can help prevent families from leaving their land and further decreasing agricultural production.
Data through the Mobile Financial Services Lens...
Regulatory Proportionality: Finding appropriate uses
for mobile-generated data will require regulation similar
to that needed for mobile financial services. In both
situations, regulation must keep pace with new
technology and protect consumers without stifling
innovation or deterring uptake. The development of
sensible data standards could increase uptake of both
mobile financial services and individual data security.
Consumer Protection: As with mobile financial
services, proper regulation and data ownership
processes must be put in place to prevent the theft or
misuse of sensitive information.
Market Competitiveness: In the long term, adequate
competition is essential to ensure a wider range of
affordable services and interoperability. However,
private-sector companies should be encouraged to
allow access to non-sensitive data that can benefit
populations and deepen their own understanding of
individual behaviour. Such cooperation may also help
telecom operators realise that creating interoperable
mobile money systems can benefit them over the long
Market Catalysts: For both the data commons and
mobile money, government can serve as a catalyst to
ensure legitimacy. This will require open and
transparent governance, as the idea of government
access to an individual‟s financial information could
discourage uptake of mobile financial services.
End User Empowerment & Access: Individuals must
have a moderate degree of financial literacy, affordable
access to a mobile device, and a mobile network
connection, in addition to control over their own
Distribution and Agent Network: Analysing
transactional data could determine where there is
demand for additional mobile money agents.
Likewise, utilising the data created by mobile
phone use can improve our understanding of
vulnerable populations, and can quicken
governments‟ response to the emergence of
new trends. Actors in the public, private, and
development sectors are beginning to recognise
the mutual benefits of creating and maintaining
a "data commons" in which this information
benefits society as a whole while protecting
individual security and privacy. But a more
concerted effort is required to make this vision a
To Be Continue...