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[Column] Laurent Sarr: Unlocking the power of mobile positioning data - A game-changer for effective governance

[Column] Laurent Sarr: Unlocking the power of mobile positioning data - A game-changer for effective governance

In an age of unprecedented data abundance, governments have the opportunity to harness the power of mobile positioning data to revolutionize decision-making and policy formulation. Embracing the transformative potential of this data, which transcends traditional boundaries, offers invaluable insights across various sectors.

Regulators play a pivotal role in addressing data access challenges by facilitating the necessary frameworks, policies, and guidelines to ensure secure and ethical data usage. Acting as the bridge between data providers, such as telecom operators, and data users, including governmental agencies and statistical bureaus, they set standards for data privacy, security, and sharing protocols. By creating a conducive environment for leveraging mobile phone big data, regulators safeguard individuals' rights while promoting data interoperability and harmonization across diverse datasets. Collaborating with stakeholders to establish data governance mechanisms and fostering transparency in data collection, processing, and dissemination are also vital functions of regulators. Therefore, regulators can enhance the accessibility and utility of mobile phone big data for statistical purposes.

Mobile positioning data provides a treasure trove of information on population movements, commuting patterns, tourism and demographic trends, enabling statistical offices to generate comprehensive reports and forecasts. By harnessing this data, governments can make informed decisions on resource allocation, urban planning, transportation and infrastructure development, ultimately enhancing the lives of their citizens. In Nigeria, a study demonstrated the crucial role of mobile position data contact tracing for epidemic control, provided it conforms to relevant data privacy regulations.

Global Voice Group (GVG) has been instrumental in promoting the use of mobile positioning data for better policymaking. GVG collects, processes and analyzes on behalf of governments data from crucial economic sectors, transforming it into actionable information to support regulatory bodies and government agencies. This data-centric approach enhances visibility, transparency, and boosts data-driven decision-making across various sectors, including telecom and financial services.

The versatility of mobile positioning data extends far beyond statistical analysis, permeating diverse sectors like tourism, immigration, and disaster response. Mobile phone big data possesses immense potential for revolutionizing tourism analytics, personalizing visitor experiences, and enhancing destination management. To harness these benefits while upholding ethical standards, regulatory frameworks must evolve to strike a delicate balance between innovation and privacy protection.

One key aspect of adapting regulatory frameworks for ethical mobile phone big data use in tourism is to delineate clear guidelines regarding data collection, storage, and processing. Regulators can establish stringent protocols to ensure that data is anonymized, aggregated, and handled in compliance with data protection laws to safeguard visitor privacy. Additionally, regulatory frameworks can mandate obtaining explicit consent from tourists before collecting their mobile phone data for analytical purposes. This consent should be informed, revocable, and based on a comprehensive understanding of the data usage implications. By empowering tourists to exercise control over their data, regulators can foster trust and mitigate concerns regarding privacy infringements.

One of the most compelling aspects of mobile positioning data is its capacity for predictive analytics and trend identification. By analyzing historical movement patterns and real-time data, governments can anticipate future trends, mitigate risks, and proactively respond to emerging challenges. In the context of natural disasters, this data can be instrumental in predicting evacuation routes, allocating emergency resources, and coordinating relief efforts, ultimately saving lives and minimizing the impact of catastrophic events.

In March 2020, understanding the spread of COVID-19 was essential for effective action and impact assessment in Ghana. The Common Platform, initially set up by GVG for revenue assurance, was upgraded to include location data, providing valuable mobility intelligence. This enhanced tool enabled predictive analysis and identification of population movements among quarantined individuals, facilitating the creation of comprehensive pandemic maps. By analyzing mobility patterns and metrics, it supported contact tracing and allowed authorities to make informed decisions based on real-time virus spread statistics. This integration of mobile positioning data was crucial in drafting a detailed domestic pandemic picture, highlighting its vital role in managing public health crises.

As we navigate an increasingly interconnected world, the role of mobile positioning data in governance cannot be overstated. By harnessing the power of this data, government agencies can unlock new possibilities for evidence-based decision-making, policy formulation, and strategic planning. Embracing mobile positioning data is not just a technological advancement; it is a paradigm shift towards more efficient, responsive, and informed governance across all sectors and ecosystems. Efforts to promote responsible data sharing and usage have been instrumental in highlighting the potential of mobile positioning data to support the public good. By addressing the main barriers to data access, such as trust, security, and regulatory gaps, it has paved the way for more secure and transparent data utilization. Ensuring compliance with privacy laws through data pseudonymization and secure IT infrastructure is crucial for maintaining trust between public and private sectors, which is essential for creating a digital society.

It is important to champion data access initiatives, enabling countries to harness the full potential of mobile phone big data for statistics, fostering informed decision-making, sustainable development, and improved public services.

Mobile positioning data is a game-changer for effective governance, offering unprecedented opportunities for data-driven decision-making and policy formulation and by fostering a secure, ethical, and collaborative data environment, governments can leverage this powerful tool to enhance public services, improve resource allocation, and respond proactively to societal challenges. The future of governance is data-driven, and mobile positioning data is at the forefront of this transformation.

Laurent Sarr is the Chief Technology Officer of Global Voice Group (GVG).




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