Mobile big data used to track spread of malaria via travellers

This is no joke – people travelling to areas at risk areas of malaria could be sent a text with advice on preventing the further spread of the disease.

It’s one possible outcome of some fascinating research from Harvard School of Public Health which demonstrates how people travelling within Kenya, can unwittingly, contribute to its spread.

While the jury may be out on using data from mobile devices, more specifically GPS, to track individuals especially in the corporate travel world, this is one initiative where data is being put to good use.

Researchers from HSPH have combined cell phone data from almost 15 million people in Kenya over the course of a year with regional incidences of malaria  to track how the disease is spreading from the Lake Victoria area to Nairobi.

The research takes into account not only the location of mosquitoes but also where potential carriers, who won’t necessarily show symptoms, are travelling to so that the disease’s potential spread can be plotted.

Every call made and text sent was mapped via almost 12,000 cell towers in 692 settlements and when an individual left their primary residence, length of journey and destination were also calculated so that the probability of a resident being infected as well as the likelihood of them infecting others could be deduced.

This enabled researchers to build a map of malaria’s movement from where it originates to what they term ‘sink’ areas – where it ends up.

NB: Mosquito swarm image via Shutterstock.

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About the Writer :: Linda Fox

Linda Fox is managing editor for Tnooz. For the past decade years she has worked as a freelance journalist across a range of B2B titles including Travolution, ABTA Magazine, Travelmole and the Business Travel Magazine.

In this time she has also undertaken corporate projects for a number of high profile travel technology, travel management and research companies.

Prior to her freelance career she covered hotels and technology news for Travel Trade Gazette for seven years. Linda joined TTG from Caterer & Hotelkeeper where she worked on the features desk for more than five years.



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