August 25, 2014

Cell-Phone Data Might Help Predict Ebola’s Spread

Mobility data from an African mobile-phone carrier could help researchers recommend where to focus health-care efforts. [via MIT Technology Report]

quotemarksright.jpgA West African mobile carrier has given researchers access to data gleaned from cell phones in Senegal, providing a window into regional population movements that could help predict the spread of Ebola. The current outbreak is so far known to have killed at least 1,350 people, mainly in Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone.

... Mobile phones—which are ubiquitous even in poor countries—can play a key role. All cell phones “ping” nearby towers with a unique ID number to announce their presence. In this way, mobile carriers amass huge databases containing fine-grained information on population movements and social patterns.

The application to public health is compelling. Caroline Buckee, a Harvard epidemiologist who also worked with Flowminder to develop the West African model, has demonstrated how such data can show where people have gone after leaving a hot spot, suggesting where a disease cluster will crop up next.quotesmarksleft.jpg

Read full article.

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