The spread of infectious diseases is affected by the movement of people. We were thinking how this could be tracked using mobile network big data. Others are already doing it. All strength to them. The people of West Africa, and the world, need all the help they can get.
A sharp increase in calls to a helpline from one particular area would suggest an outbreak and alert authorities to direct more resources there.
Mapping software company Esri is helping CDC to visualise this data and overlay other existing sources of data from censuses to build up a richer picture.
The level of activity at each mobile phone mast also gives a kind of heatmap of where people are and crucially, where and how far they are moving.
Power of big data
“We’ve never had this large-scale, anonymised mobile phone data before as a species,” says Nuria Oliver, a scientific director at mobile phone company Telefonica.