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Mobile Phone Traffic Maps Africa’s Wealth

Belgian researchers studied mobile-phone traffic to analyze and map wealth in Africa. The researchers from Université Catholique de Louvain and Real Impact Analytics based their work in the Ivory Coast. For their study, they used 2012 information—including caller IDs, the cell towers used for each call, and the time and amount of airtime purchases—from one of the West African nation’s mobile operators. They judged airtime purchases to be a good indicator of an individual’s income. Based on their findings, the researchers created a map showing wealth throughout the nation. The amount of wealth was greatest in Abidjan, the country’s largest city, as well as in areas in which there are main roads to the countries of Mali, Burkina Faso, and Ghana. The study also found unexpectedly wealthy areas, such as in a region bordering Liberia, which the researchers say might be the result of illegal activities such as drug, arms, and human trafficking. They say such mapping could be used in developing nations to better understand local socioeconomic conditions. The researchers published their findings on the arXiv website. (SlashDot)(arXiv)

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