The research was done in Sri Lanka, but it was first reported on in India, then in Bangladesh and now the Sri Lankan English-language Sunday newspaper with the largest circulation has chosen to reprint what Nalaka Gunawardene wrote for SciDev. Now we need to work on Pakistan and Nepal.
City planners need to know where people live and congregate, when and how they move, their economic conditions, where they spend their money, and about their social networks. Currently the best big data source for these variables involves mobile phones – ubiquitous device used by the rich and poor alike.
Mobile network big data (MNBD) is produced by all phones, smart and otherwise, and include call detail records (CDRs) generated when calls and texts are sent or received, web is accessed, and prepaid values are loaded. When analysed, these can provide a good (though not perfect) proxy for people’s behaviour in an area at any given time.
The Colombo-based think tank LIRNEasia has just conducted some path-breaking research using MNBD. They analysed pseudonymised, historical CDRs from multiple mobile operators to understand and monitor land use, congregations of people, peak and off-peak travel patterns, communities, and traffic. Correlations were validated using other datasets where available, for example, a conventional transport survey.