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Not much good has come from the Ebola crisis, save this: It has raised awareness of the fact that we already have a weapon in our hands that could help fight such epidemics – our mobile phones.

There’s already evidence to show that the idea can work. Following the earthquake and cholera outbreak in Haiti in 2010, for example, “call-data records” from mobile phones were used to track people’s movements, so allowing experts to “infer, with empirical data and in real-time, where people are, and how many, and where they are probably headed,” according to The Economist. That’s vital information in health crises, where epidemiologists need to know if people are moving into or out of highly infected areas.

The technique has been also been used to follow people’s movements in the wake of natural catastrophes, for example after the 2011 earthquake in Japan. And there’s growing interest in seeing how it could be used to track survivors of extreme weather events, such as Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, especially as climate change threatens to raise the frequency of such disasters.

But there’s a problem...

Read more at oecdinsights.org

Originally published on OECD Insights on 19 November 2014.

 

Useful links

Global Call for Innovations: The Partnership in Statistics for Development in the 21st Century (PARIS21) has launched a global call for innovations to highlight organizational approaches and new technologies to help realise the data revolution. It is seeking case studies in crowd sourcing; data management; monitoring and reporting; open data; real-time data; remote sensing; research standards; visualization; skills development; and technical infrastructure.

Informing a Data Revolution and the Innovations Inventory – PARIS21

Clean water, cold vaccines, cell phones = a simple way to save lives (OECD Insights blog)

OECD Insights: From Aid to Development – The Global Fight against Poverty