Leveraging Mobile Phone Data for Migration Flows

Authors: Luca, M., Barlacchi, G., Oliver, N., Lepri, B.

External link: https://arxiv.org/abs/2105.14956
Publication: arXiv preprint arXiv:2105.14956 , 2021
DOI: https://doi.org/10.48550/arXiv.2105.14956
PDF: Click here for the PDF paper

Statistics on migration flows are often derived from census data, which suffer from intrinsic limitations, including costs and infrequent sampling. When censuses are used, there is typically a time gap - up to a few years - between the data collection process and the computation and publication of relevant statistics. This gap is a significant drawback for the analysis of a phenomenon that is continuously and rapidly changing. Alternative data sources, such as surveys and field observations, also suffer from reliability, costs, and scale limitations. The ubiquity of mobile phones enables an accurate and efficient collection of up-to-date data related to migration. Indeed, passively collected data by the mobile network infrastructure via aggregated, pseudonymized Call Detail Records (CDRs) is of great value to understand human migrations. Through the analysis of mobile phone data, we can shed light on the mobility patterns of migrants, detect spontaneous settlements and understand the daily habits, levels of integration, and human connections of such vulnerable social groups. This Chapter discusses the importance of leveraging mobile phone data as an alternative data source to gather precious and previously unavailable insights on various aspects of migration. Also, we highlight pending challenges that would need to be addressed before we can effectively benefit from the availability of mobile phone data to help make better decisions that would ultimately improve millions of people’s lives.