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How can mobile data help bring sustainability to greater heights?
Mobile data analytics
As the term implies, mobile data analytics is about analysing data gathered from mobile apps and systems to gain insight into how mobile phone users interact with the phone. It’s similar to web analytics but also includes measuring several mobile app metrics like app installs, app launches, number of app users, countries of app users, taps, screens, events, app versions, devices, flows, social media activity, etc.
Many companies are increasingly seeing the importance of mobile data analytics in aiding marketing and sales campaigns via mobile platforms as 70% of screen time is nowadays spent on mobile devices and 92% of mobile use time is spent in apps in the USA.
Not only is the boom in mobile use a reason for companies to adopt mobile data analytics for a competitive edge, it is also a reason to take advantage of mobile data for the following sustainability efforts:
1. Poverty alleviation
Mobile data is among the Big Data sources needed to fulfil the United Nations’ first sustainability goal of ending poverty through mobile data-driven poverty tracking and poverty alleviation efforts.
Mobile phone data can be used as proxies to identify time-series changes in socio-economic conditions and fill the gaps of traditional census surveys. Mobile data gathered about the conditions to which poor communities are exposed can be added to a poverty tracker to determine the help they need.
One way to do this is to encourage poor communities to use a mobile app that allows them to key in updates about their socio-economic needs, health, food, drinking water conditions, energy, gender equality and education opportunities.
In addition, poverty alleviation efforts also address the lack of opportunities to earn a decent income and mobile data can help here too by identifying unemployment trends. A study done in 2015 has proven a way to do this by relating data about mobile phone and social media usage to a mass layoff.
2. Food aid
While helping someone escape poverty is a crucial goal, making sure they don’t stay hungry (literally) is another goal that needs to be considered. Fortunately, mobile data provides a way to feed the hungry… properly.
In an attempt to solve the mismatch of food and dietary needs, MEANS database is an example of an organisation that brings together emails, texts and cloud-based data to make sure the right food lands in front of the right needy people.
This initiative could serve as a great idea for a mobile app that allows the hungry to specify their dietary restrictions like having diabetes or allergies. It’s unclear if such a mobile app exists but there is an app for matching crop donations to charity workers.
With the goal of helping the hungry while preventing further food waste, a teen from Arizona, USA, named Akshaya created an app that allows donors to key in the crops they have and other relevant details for pick-ups. Charity workers can then browse the app and contact the donors for pick-ups.
3. Human rights
The possibilities are endless for mobile data analytics in human rights, particularly women’s rights. Mobile data (including data from social media and SMS) can be used to increase engagement with underprivileged women, analyse attitudes towards reproductive health content, monitor the HIV inheritance prevention programme and identify workplace sexism.
Mobile data analytics also has its place in the migration crisis. Researchers studying migration feasibility have added abnormalities detected from mobile data to help with monitoring and searching.
4. Water quality
The abundance of water data provides opportunities for water utilities and farmers to analyse these data and generate useful insights to make better decisions about this precious resource. Although the Internet of Things (IoT) technology plays a big part in gathering the sensor data about water supply, mobile data via crowdsourced social media data can be used to generate another dimension of water quality insights – the consumer side.
But mobile data about water quality is not limited to social media. It also includes the water supplier’s mobile data. A 2015 study across six sub-Saharan countries found that mobile data improves the effectiveness of water quality monitoring on the water supplier side.
5. Cyclist protection
A significant lesson from writing about the German NGO that initiated a bicycle referendum is that mobile data can protect cyclists (if they’re not looking at the phone while riding, of course).
Mobile data consisting of crowdsourced cyclist feedback data and mobile GPS data can accompany AI-based voice processing, on-bike sensor data, satellite data, weather data and personalised multi-dimensional bicycle navigation algorithms to provide the best way to cycle to a destination.
But wouldn’t it be easier if cities were designed with bicycles in mind? Anonymised mobile data from cycling apps and cell towers can efficiently give insights into whether bad infrastructure can discourage people from cycling to redesign the infrastructure.
6. Public transport
In order to encourage people to use public transport, a lot needs to be done to improve public transport, made possible by mobile data:
- Radial networks using mobile phone data can be constructed and leveraged to gauge the demand for public transport in cities and meet that demand through the expansion of service routes and frequency.
- Data on occupancy in public transport can be reported and crowdsourced via a mobile app to inform passengers about how crowded a particular train or bus is at a certain time.
- Do you know what would be cool for public transport punctuality? Scanning the QR code. Not only is the QR code a more efficient alternative to tapping a smart card and to tickets, but it might also unlock the benefits of QR code data as input for minimising public transport delays.
Check out what we’re doing to make public transport better during this tough time:
The power of mobile data
The boom in mobile consumption has provided enough justification for organisations to employ mobile data analytics. Seeing that mobile data is capable of so much, it really makes sense to extend its use to making a positive difference for others through sustainability efforts.
Despite the legal and privacy concerns of mobile data analytics, the 6 sustainability efforts listed in this article show that mobile data can be leveraged to make the world a better place when used wisely. If every organisation adopts an approach driven by sustainability goals, then attaining sustainability will be within reach in no time.
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