The annual ICT4D Conferences have proven to be an invaluable opportunity for NGOs, private sector organizations, universities, governmental agencies and foundations to share their experience in using ICT to increase the impact of development programs and to learn from each other. In 2016, 750 individuals from 76 countries and 320 private sector and public sector and civil society explored the ways to harness the full power of digital solutions to achieve the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. Our thanks to Accenture, Catholic Relief Services, Esri, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, iMerit Technology Services, Inmarsat, IS Solutions, Making All Voices Count, Mercy Corps, Microsoft, NetHope, Oxfam, Pandexio, Qualcom Wireless Reach, RTI International, SimbaNet and World Vision for making that possible.
Big data offers the potential of calculating timely estimates of the socioeconomic development of a region. Mobile telephone activity provides an enormous wealth of information that can be utilized along with traditional household surveys. Estimates of poverty and wealth rely on the calculation of features from call detail records (CDRs). However, mobile network operators are reluctant to provide access to CDRs due to commercial sensitivity and privacy concerns. As a compromise, we show that a relatively sparse CDR dataset combined with other publicly available datasets based on satellite imagery can yield competitive results. In particular, we build a model using two features from the CDRs, mobile ownership per capita and call volume per phone, combined with normalized satellite nightlight data and population density, to estimate the multi-dimensional poverty index (MPI) at the sector level in Rwanda. Our model accurately predicts the MPI for sectors in Rwanda that contain mobile phone cell towers (cross-validated correlation of 0.88).