Closing mobile’s data divide

Good mobile data is hard to come by. Much is either speculative, out of date or – if based on more recent research – expensive. And what is freely available is often spread far and wide across the Web. If you’re into mobiles for development then today your life is set to become a lot easier with the launch of “Mobile and Development Intelligence” (MDI), a new open data platform from the GSM Association which aims to “educate and unite all who want to harness the power of mobile for good”.

A key objective of MDI is to help increase investment and activity in the mobile for development field, and in turn amplify the social, economic and environmental benefits the technology can bring. That positive impact has already touched a wide range of development sectors from education and health to financial services, government transparency and democracy, and agriculture. With mobile phones now in the hands of the very people the development community have historically tried to help – billions of them, and counting – exciting new opportunities have emerged. According to the GSMA:

The mobile phone’s ubiquity is uniquely well-placed to drive economic and social development in emerging markets. Investments in the mobile and development sectors are rising yet there is limited data on which to base these decisions. MDI is designed to bridge this information gap.

These gaps include:

  • The lack of data for business cases, product strategies and programmes
  • Limited visibility of organisations and communities
  • Limited understanding of the impact of mobiles on development
  • Fragmentation of platforms and limited cross-sector convergence

In line with these challenges, MDI aims to provide:

A freely accessible, online repository of data and analysis
MDI will aggregate, cleanse and categorise data from multiple internal and external sources into a single, centralised data repository. Users will have the ability to manipulate, visualise and export the datasets (below: the ratio of total mobile connections to total population, 2009-2011).

Visibility of organisations, products and services and community
MDI will provide an online directory where users can access information about organisations and their products, services and initiatives. It will provide the “who, what, where and how”.

Clarify the impact of mobile on development
Develop impact pathways for each specific sector to find and map evidence of socio-economic benefit, and host impact metrics from other GSMA departments e.g. the impact of mobile on GDP.

Thought leadership on technology convergence
Working outwards from user needs to design common platforms to deliver them.

Future functionality will include an investor hub, document repository, online community and coverage maps making MDI a one-stop shop for NGOs, international NGOs, government departments and the private sector interested in leveraging the power of mobile technology for development.

You can visit the MDI site here.

Congratulations to the GSMA team, partners ThoughtWorks and PwC, and investor the Omidyar Network.