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Publication Detail
Beyond the baseline: Establishing the value in mobile phone based poverty estimates
  • Publication Type:
  • Authors:
    Smith-Clarke C, Capra L
  • Publisher:
    International World Wide Web Conferences Steering Committee
  • Publication date:
  • Place of publication:
    Geneva, Switzerland
  • Pagination:
    425, 434
  • Published proceedings:
    WWW '16: Proceedings of the 25th International Conference on World Wide Web
  • ISBN-13:
  • Status:
  • Name of conference:
    25th International World Wide Web Conference
  • Conference place:
    Geneva, Switzerland
  • Conference start date:
  • Conference finish date:
Within the remit of `Data for Development' there have been a number of promising recent works that investigate the use of mobile phone Call Detail Records (CDRs) to estimate the spatial distribution of poverty or socio-economic status. The methods being developed have the potential to offer immense value to organisations and agencies who currently struggle to identify the poorest parts of a country, due to the lack of reliable and up to date survey data in certain parts of the world. However, the results of this research have thus far only been presented in isolation rather than in comparison to any alternative approach or benchmark. Consequently, the true practical value of these methods remains unknown. Here, we seek to allay this shortcoming, by proposing two baseline poverty estimators grounded on concrete usage scenarios: one that exploits correlation with population density only, to be used when no poverty data exists at all; and one that also exploits spatial autocorrelation, to be used when poverty data has been collected for a few regions within a country. We then compare the predictive performance of these baseline models with models that also include features derived from CDRs, so to establish their real added value. We present extensive analysis of the performance of all these models on data acquired for two developing countries -- Senegal and Ivory Coast. Our results reveal that CDR-based models do provide more accurate estimates in most cases; however, the improvement is modest and more significant when estimating (extreme) poverty intensity rates rather than mean wealth.
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