Joshua Blumenstock on Using Big Data to Understand the Implications of the Mobile Phone Revolution in Ruanda

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"Will mobile phones transform the lives of the world’s poor? In this talk, I describe how innovative sources of data can provide new insight into the social and economic impacts of Mobile Money and other phone-based services in sub-Saharan Africa. I will focus on a series of related projects in Rwanda, which exploit a terabyte-scale database of phone calls, text messages, and mobile money transfers to explore patterns of social interaction and, ultimately, provide insight into the role of mobile phones in the Rwandan economy. Taken together, the results indicate that phones have had a positive impact on the lives of some people but, absent intervention, the benefits may not reach those with the greatest need." (