SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 25, 2016

Researchers use cellphone data to track malaria in Namibia

A joint British-Namibian project recently used mobile phone data to identify malaria "hotspots."


The study, led by the University of Southampton and the National Vector-borne Diseases Control Programme (NVDCP) in Namibia, tracked nine billion mobile communications from 2010-2011 in Namibia. When combined with recorded cases of malaria, climate and topography, the researchers were able to develop more targeted strategies to help the NVDCP combat malaria in Namibia.


"Our study demonstrates that the rapid global proliferation of mobile phones now provides us with an opportunity to study the movement of people, using sample sizes running in to millions," Andy Tatem, a geographer with the University of Southampton, said. "This data, combined with disease case based mapping, can help us plan where and how to intervene."


The results of the study led to the NVDCP targeting the regions of Omusati, Kavango and Zambezi for mosquito net distribution in 2013. The NVDCP is preparing for another large-scale net distribution this year with the help of the data, as well as more coordinated deployment of healthcare workers.


The yearlong supply of anonymised call data records were provided to the researches by the prover Mobile Telecommunications, Ltd. The data represented 1.19 million unique customers, or approximately 52 percent of the population of Namibia.