Expert workshop ‘Making the most of mobile phone data to map migration’
Data gaps in migration research have many causes, including inconsistencies in the definitions and data collection methodology, lack of adequate statistics and lacking data on irregular migration. Mobile phone data, if properly used, can provide valuable insights about the mobility of people within a country, and for movements across the borders. The HumMingBird EU project explores the potential of different data sources to address data and information gaps for sound policy decisions in migration research, and in this expert workshop, we focus on mobile phone data. The main question we ask is how to make most of mobile phone data for mapping migration.
This question is linked to at least four issues simultaneously. The first one is the nature and source of mobile phone data to be processed. Such data may come from mobile applications installed by users, who grant permission to specific ways of data processing, from systems that interact with mobile phone applications, or directly from telecommunication companies, in form of call detail record (CDR) or extended data records (XDR). The latter requires data collaboratives between the telcos and public stakeholders for ethically sound and privacy-aware sharing of data or data insights. The second issue, thus, is to establish principles and technologies of data sharing to protect the interests and rights of data subjects. Such considerations extend to future projections, including for example the role of authoritarian and suppressive governments, profit-driven corporations, data leaks and illegal access, considerations of biased systems and misuse of technology. The third issue is the link between low-level quantitative data and theories of migration. Different perspectives are adopted in migration theory, each ‘modeling’ migrants at different levels of complexity and autonomy, ranging from simple push-pull models to agent-based models with simulated aspirations and capabilities. What indicators can we derive based on mobile phone information? How generalisable are such indicators across countries and cultures? How can we integrate qualitative information and other sources of large-scale data to make the most of mobile phone data? Finally, the fourth issue is the role of policy, and how mobile phone data may be used ethically and sustainably for informing policy decisions. A valuable lesson was learned during the COVID-19 pandemic that the technical and legal infrastructure of a sustained data collaborative needs to be established before a crisis hits, as it takes time to prepare the necessary interfaces, to develop and activate the legal regulations, and to train the people who will employ such infrastructures. What can be done for mobile phone data?
This workshop will gather technical experts, computer scientists, social scientists, ethics experts, industrial stakeholders, and policymakers in a collaborative setting to share expertise and merge knowledge. One of the aims is to discuss policy implications of safely and ethically sourced mobile CDR and XDR data for tracking migration, and to establish a common language for work performed under different lenses. A coherent set of indicators, as well as best practices for reproducible research will be shared. A white paper will be produced on policy implications by the participants of the expert workshop to be shared with stakeholders