The GSMA unveiled the ‘Big Data for Social Good’ initiative at Mobile World Congress.
By leveraging big data capabilities of mobile operators, the scheme will address humanitarian crises, including epidemics and natural disasters. Mobile operators supporting the launch are Bharti Airtel, Deutsche Telekom, Hutchison, KDDI, KT, Millicom, MTS, NTT Docomo, Orange, SK Telecom, Telefonica, Telenor, Telia, Turkcell, Vodafone Group and Zain.
Collectively the 16 operators account for more than 2 billion connections across more than 100 countries.
Trials of ‘Big Data for Social Good’ will focus first on epidemics and start from June 2017. Countries involved are Bangladesh, Brazil, India, Myanmar and Thailand.
“A year ago, the mobile industry became the first sector as a whole to commit to the UN Sustainable Development Goals and, as outlined in our Mobile Industry Impact Report published in September, we are already affecting all 17 Goals to varying degrees,” said Mats Granryd (pictured), GSMA director general.
“We are now focused on amplifying and accelerating our industry’s impact in achieving the SDGs, and the initiative that we are announcing today will contribute greatly in addressing some of the biggest challenges facing humanity: epidemics and natural disasters.”
Response and recovery
Through the initiative, mobile operators will provide key insights based on anonymised meta-data generated by their networks. These insights will then support responses in critical situations.
For example, by monitoring the flow of people to and from impacted areas, public health organisations can more effectively respond to prevent epidemics, slow the spread of disease and better target relief efforts. Humanitarian agencies can also more accurately aid evacuation, response and recovery efforts.
A major goal of the Big Data for Social Good initiative is to develop scalable, common processes and mechanisms, as well as build an ecosystem to support timely planning and response to crises.
To support this, the GSMA said it would establish a code of conduct designed to ensure that all activity undertaken adheres to strict privacy regulations. It is also working on standardising the process of sharing and delivering insights.
The United Nations Foundation is a supporting partner of the initiative.