Estimating poverty and wealth from cell phone metadata

Members of the University of Washington’s Information School and Computer Science and Engineering Department have co-authored a study that uses cell tower data to estimate distribution levels of poverty and wealth. The case study involved Rwanda.  The authors provide a fascinating alternative to the standard government census survey:  Not all are able to conduct population censuses and household surveys, and some go decades in between. In Rwanda, household surveys occur every three to five years. Blumenstock said based on the government’s 2010 survey, the 2009 mobile phone metadata proved more effective at indicating wealth and poverty than the previous Rwandan government survey in 2007.

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