The Vodafone Foundation this week announced a pioneering programme in Ghana to use aggregated anonymised data to help the government track and control epidemics to prevent widespread outbreaks.
The programme, one of the first of its kind in the world, will use aggregated anonymised mobile data to track real-time trends in population movement. The data is then analysed to provide life-saving insights during an epidemic. The programme is a good example of how big data can be used to gather valuable insights, which the government of Ghana can apply to a number of health and other sustainable development challenges, saving and improving lives.
Government departments will be able to allocate resources more efficiently and identify the areas at increased risk of new outbreaks. The level of activity at each mobile phone mast can provide a ‘heat map’ of where people are and how far they are moving during an outbreak, while aggregated anonymised data can be used for decision-making in a number of areas - including health, agriculture, and transportation.
The programme, a first in Africa, will be funded by the Vodafone Foundation and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, one of the largest philanthropic foundations in the United States. They will fund the work of a team of data scientists from not-for-profit organisation Flowminder. Working closely with Ghana Statistical Service (GSS) and Vodafone Ghana, Flowminder will collect, aggregate, integrate and analyse anonymous mobile data, working in line with Vodafone’s global privacy principles, GSMA data protection guidelines and Ghanaian data protection regulations. The project, which will launch later this year, will ultimately help save lives by providing detailed, up-to-date insights to the government of Ghana. Mobile data will be used alongside epidemiological data to help manage any future health challenges.
Vodafone Group External Affairs Director Joakim Reiter, said: “Mobile technology can enable access to large-scale aggregated anonymised data about human behaviour and the ability to examine the mobility of an entire population. As we can now measure human mobility, it is possible to model how infections spread. This has the potential to save thousands of lives.”
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About Vodafone Foundation
The Vodafone Foundation's Connecting for Good programme combines Vodafone's charitable giving and technology to make a difference in the world. Globally, the Vodafone Foundation supports projects that are focused on delivering public benefit through the use of mobile technology across the areas of health, education and disaster relief. The Vodafone Foundation invests in the communities in which Vodafone operates and is at the centre of a network of global and local social investment programmes. The Vodafone Foundation is a UK registered charity, registered charity number 10989625.
About Flowminder and the WorldPop Program
Flowminder Foundation is a Swedish non-profit organisation with offices in the UK and Switzerland. Flowminder’s mission is to improve public health and welfare in low- and middle-income countries. Flowminder is a core partner of the WorldPop research program,providing high-resolution data of global population distributions and characteristics, freely available online.
Flowminder and the WorldPop Program works with governments, inter-governmental organizations and NGOs. It collects, aggregates, integrates and analyzes anonymous mobile operator data, satellite and household survey data. Flowminder works with large datasets, composed of billions of data points. Its analyses enable the mapping of the distributions and characteristics of vulnerable populations in low- and middle-income countries. Flowminder helps save lives by providing analyses and decision support to all relevant parties, based on the latest academic advances.
About the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation
The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation is a nonpartisan, private charitable foundation that advances ideas and supports institutions to promote a better world.
For 50 years, the Hewlett Foundation has supported efforts to advance education for all, preserve the environment, improve lives and livelihoods in developing countries, promote the health and economic well-being of women, support vibrant performing arts, strengthen Bay Area communities and make the philanthropy sector more effective. The foundation was established in 1966 by engineer and entrepreneur William R. Hewlett and his wife, Flora Lamson Hewlett, with their eldest son, Walter Hewlett. Today, it is one of the largest philanthropic institutions in the United States, awarding roughly $400 million in grants in 2016 to organizations across the globe to help people build better lives.
This programme is supported by the Hewlett Foundation’s Evidence Informed Policymaking strategy. The goal of this strategy is that governments systematically use evidence to improve social and economic policies over time.
About Ghana Statistical Service (GSS)
GSS leads the efficient production and management of quality official statistics based on international standards, using competent staff for evidence-based decision-making, in support of national development.
In 1985, the Statistical Service Law (PNDC Law 135) established the Statistical Service, which instrument had the effect of raising the status of the Central Bureau of Statistics from a Government Department under a Ministry to that of an autonomous, independent public service.
The GSS coordinates the National Statistical System in Ghana and is currently leading a drive to innovate around data for evidence based decision making and monitoring the national and international development frameworks such as the SDGs.