Pune: In a first of its kind initiative, a private telecom company has announced a programme that will track and control epidemics in order to prevent widespread outbreaks with the help of big data.
This programme has been initiated in Ghana by Vodafone Foundation and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, one of the philanthropic foundations in the United States. The programme will use aggregated anonymised mobile data to track real-time trends in population movement. The data will then be analysed to provide life-saving insights during widespread epidemics - such as the 2014 West Africa Ebola outbreak, the most widespread outbreak of Ebola virus in history.
The programme is an example of how big data can be used to gather valuable insights, which the government of Ghana can apply to a number of health and other sustainable development challenges, ultimately saving and improving lives.
Government departments will be able to allocate resources more efficiently and identify the areas at increased risk of new outbreaks. The level of activity at each mobile phone mast can provide a ‘heat map’ of where people are and how far they are moving during an outbreak, while aggregated anonymised data can be used for decision-making in a number of areas - including health, agriculture and transportation.
Ghana Statistical Service (GSS), Vodafone Ghana and Flowminder will collect, aggregate, integrate and analyse anonymous mobile data, working in line with global privacy principles, GSMA data protection guidelines and Ghanaian data protection regulations. The project, which will be launched later this year, will ultimately help save lives by providing detailed and up-to-date insights to the government of Ghana. Mobile data will be used alongside epidemiological data to help manage any future health challenges.
“Mobile technology can enable access to large-scale aggregated anonymised data about human behaviour and the ability to examine the mobility of an entire population. As we can now measure human mobility, it is possible to model how infections are spread. This has the potential to save thousands of lives,” said Joakim Reiter, External Affairs Director of Vodafone group.