GSMA Expands Big Data for Social Good Initiative, Announces Successful First Wave of Trials

February 26, 2018

Press Release

Additional Operators to Support New Phase of Mobile Big Data Programme

Barcelona: The GSMA has achieved significant progress in the first trials of its Big Data for Social Good initiative by Bharti Airtel, Telefónica and Telenor, creating a blueprint for future deployments that leverages mobile operators’ big data capabilities to address the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The GSMA also announced at Mobile World Congress today that six operators – KDDI, MegaFon, NTT DOCOMO, SoftBank, Telefónica and Turkcell – will work on a new phase of the initiative focused on disaster preparedness that builds on the foundation established over the past year.

The GSMA’s Big Data for Social Good initiative was launched in February 2017 and is today backed by 20 mobile operators1 with a presence in 124 markets around the world. The initiative has enabled mobile operators to jointly establish a holistic framework and approach to analysing the data captured on operators’ networks to help public agencies and NGOs tackle epidemics, natural disasters and environmental crises.

“Over the last 12 months, the Big Data for Social Good initiative has generated significant momentum among operators and UN agency partners,” commented Mats Granryd, Director General of the GSMA. “We have equipped operators with a comprehensive blueprint of best practice guidelines for big data deployments. This approach has been tested and validated via several real-world trials around the world and supported by an advisory panel that has provided input from across the ecosystem.

“We are now expanding the initiative into the area of disaster preparedness, where we can harness the power of big data to understand, prepare for and reduce the effects of disasters on vulnerable populations.”

The Big Data for Social Good initiative is supported by an advisory panel consisting of global agencies and partners, including Data 2X, DIAL, GPSDD, Be He@lthy Be Mobile, OCHA, UN Global Pulse, UNDP, UNHCR, UNICEF, WFP and, most recently, the World Bank.

First Wave of Trials Showcasing Big Data Capabilities
Big Data for Social Good is currently being trialled by Bharti Airtel in India; by Telefónica in Brazil; and by Telenor Group in Bangladesh, Myanmar and Thailand. In these trials, operators are capturing anonymised, aggregated mobile indicators in a consistent output format, whilst respecting and protecting the privacy of individuals via an agreed Code of Conduct. The data is then combined with a wide variety of other data types to provide vital insights for public officials and NGOs.

In India, Bharti Airtel and the GSMA are working with Be He@lthy, Be Mobile (a joint initiative of the WHO and the ITU) to identify whether insights from mobile data can support national health systems. The trial is looking at how population volume and movement patterns can improve planning to control tuberculosis (TB), one of the biggest killers in India. In the trial, mobile data is providing detailed, up-to-date behavioural insights across a population of 280 million people, delivering a combination of scale and granularity that is unattainable from any other data source. The trial is identifying potential hotspots at higher risk of TB, which could help target interventions such as vaccination programmes, tobacco cessation initiatives, awareness campaigns or the deployment of mobile clinics.

Telefónica Brazil is using mobile network big data to monitor air pollution in São Paulo, Brazil’s largest city, and help improve the city’s traffic management and environmental planning. Using mobility data, it has been possible to predict pollution problems up to two days before they occur, allowing the city to take precautions to protect public health, such as guiding traffic via alternative routes and advising vulnerable populations, such as those with respiratory conditions, on areas of high pollution. The mobility data used in the trial also delivered greater granularity and wider reach than traditional fixed air quality and traffic sensors, which are expensive to deploy.

Following Telenor’s successful collaboration with Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health that addressed the spreading of dengue fever in Pakistan, Telenor, Harvard, and MORU (the Mahidol Oxford Tropical Medicine Research Unit, Bangkok) are now addressing the critical issue of Multi-Drug-Resistant (MDR) Malaria, which is spreading in Asia. In 2017, preparatory work for studies on the spreading of MDR Malaria in a contiguous, three-nation area (Thailand, Bangladesh and Myanmar), was conducted.

Expanding the Initiative to Focus on Disaster Preparedness
The results of the trials to date, combined with mobile operators’ own initiatives, are providing the basis for the next wave of Big Data for Social Good deployments in 2018, which will focus on disaster preparedness in key countries including Chile, Colombia, Japan, Russia and Turkey.

In disaster-prone zones, mobile operators can access location and usage information in near real time, enabling relief agencies to identify zones at risk and direct resources efficiently. In Japan, for example, mobile operators are working with the Disaster Management Bureau Cabinet Office at the Government of Japan to allow rescue teams to act quickly and prioritise the deployment of resources in the event of a large-scale disaster. In Latin America, Telefónica has an alliance with the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to develop a better assessment of which regions and populations are most vulnerable to natural disasters linked to the effects of climate change to help authorities design prevention plans accordingly.

“The use of mobile big data capabilities for disaster preparedness situations is a key example of how the mobile industry is contributing to the SDGs,” added Granryd. “The work to date demonstrates that by combining mobility data with other data sources, operators can build a business case to support decision-making and planning by governments and NGOs across a wide variety of use cases.”

Demonstrations of the operator Big Data for Social Good trials can be seen during Mobile World Congress at the GSMA Innovation City, located in Hall 4, Stands 4A30, 4A5 and 4A15 in Fira Gran Via.


About the GSMA
The GSMA represents the interests of mobile operators worldwide, uniting nearly 800 operators with more than 300 companies in the broader mobile ecosystem, including handset and device makers, software companies, equipment providers and internet companies, as well as organisations in adjacent industry sectors. The GSMA also produces industry-leading events such as Mobile World Congress, Mobile World Congress Shanghai, Mobile World Congress Americas and the Mobile 360 Series of conferences. 

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Media Contacts:
For the GSMA
Beau Bass
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GSMA Press Office


1 The  20 operator groups supporting the GSMA’s Big Data for Social Good initiative are Bharti Airtel, Deutsche Telekom, Hutchison, KDDI, KT Corporation, Megafon, Millicom, MTS, NTT DOCOMO, INC., Orange, Safaricom, SK Telecom, SoftBank, Telefónica, Telenet, Telenor, Telia, Turkcell, Vodafone and Zain.

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