IODC Archives — LIRNEasia

Late May in Ottawa, I was among those interviewed for an article about big data. Similarly, private telecom companies’ data on mobile phone traffic has become a crucial resource for researchers at the Sri Lanka-based think tank LIRNEasia, a long-time IDRC research partner. Using phone data that tracks traffic flows can be a low-cost means of helping governments decide where to invest in road and public transport upgrades, says LIRNEasia chair Rohan Samarajiva. Since mobile phones are ubiquitous in Sri Lanka and phone traffic data is anonymous, studies are less likely to be biased in favour of the rich, he says. “We see that a mobile phone travels down a highway at a certain speed, but whether it’s rich or poor, travelling in a car or bus or motorbike — we don’t know.
The full webcast of the Shades of Open session which dealt with whether data held by private entities should be open is available here. At the session moderated by Stefaan Verhulst, I framed the issues within the context of principal-agent theory and competition and illustrated my arguments from our experience in working with mobile network big data. I went first, so my opening presentation is at 4:26. The second intervention is at around 26:00.