Charity uses mobile phone data to identify aid recipients in Togo
By Sonia Elks
LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A U.S.-based nonprofit that is using algorithms to identify people living in extreme poverty by analysing their mobile phone habits has made direct cash payments to 30,000 people as part of a pioneering project in Togo.
GiveDirectly worked with the government of the West African nation and experts [including Joshua Blumenstock] at the University of California, Berkeley, for the high-tech approach to find some of the country’s poorest people.
They use satellite data to identify poor areas, and then harness machine learning to comb mobile phone metadata to identify those living in extreme poverty. Potential recipients are contacted by phone and invited to apply for support.
Joshua Blumenstock is an associate professor at the UC Berkeley School of Information, the director of the Data-Intensive Development Lab, and the faculty co-director of the Center for Effective Global Action.