Big Data for Social Good: Achievements one year on and looking ahead at Mobile World Congress 2018

The world today is facing some major global challenges that require innovative solutions and partnerships to be solved. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) guide us in this effort, providing the key targets to transform our world: to end the epidemics of AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and other communicable diseases; to reduce the adverse environmental impact of cities; to ensure sustainable food production systems and resilient agricultural practices; to strengthen resilience to climate-related hazards and natural disasters; and more.

Mobile big data can provide powerful insights that can help in addressing these goals. Mobile operators connect over 5 billion unique subscribers around the world, and are well-placed to deliver dynamic, real-time information on population volumes and mobility patterns to public agencies and NGOs.

Leveraging mobile big data has already proven to be effective around the world: helping emergency response following the earthquakes in Nepal and Haiti, helping to more quickly predict dengue fever outbreaks in Pakistan, or helping to develop a strategy for malaria control and elimination in Namibia.

In 2017, the GSMA launched the Big Data for Social Good (BD4SG) initiative to leverage mobile operators’ big data capabilities to help tackle health, environmental and other humanitarian challenges. Its mission is to build on existing impactful mobile big data projects in order to fast-track the development of data-driven services and more quickly capture their potential impact.

Big Data for Social Good has established a taskforce of 20 operators, present in 124 countries, to create a consistent, replicable approach for operators to generate and share aggregated, anonymised mobile indicators. The taskforce has established a robust code of conduct to ensure all activity respects and protects individuals’ privacy.

The GSMA has also assembled an advisory panel of thought-leading experts from UN agencies, programmes and partners, to share their knowledge and experiences, in order to identify where, when and how mobile big data can provide the most value.

The initiative is validating the common approach through a series of projects and trials by mobile operators and local partners in different regions of the world. These include projects by Airtel on tuberculosis in India, by Telefónica on air quality in Brazil, and by Telenor on multi-drug-resistant malaria in Bangladesh, Myanmar and Thailand.

We will soon be showcasing our progress at Mobile World Congress 2018 in Barcelona. Throughout the week, you will be able to meet the team at the Innovation City, where we will showcase the BD4SG accelerator and bring the trial projects to life through visualisation demos.  You will also be able to learn from first-hand experiences by operators, agencies and partners in deploying Big Data for Social Good projects in the Industry Purpose seminar, ‘What a #BetterFuture Means for Business Today’, which will take place on Tuesday 27 February from 11:30 to 13:30 in the Hall 1 Seminar Theatre.

We will also run a panel during the Ministerial Programme, where senior representatives from government, UN agencies and industry will share their vision of how mobile big data can help address pressing global challenges.

The BD4SG team hope to meet you there in Barcelona. In the meantime, you can find further information on Big Data for Social Good at

You can also find out more about all of the #BetterFuture activities at Mobile World Congress here, including registration for our seminar: ‘What a #BetterFuture means for business today’.