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Wealth In Africa Mapped Using Mobile Phone Data

timothy posted about a year ago | from the tricorders-can't-even-send-money dept.

Cellphones 34

KentuckyFC writes "The remarkable growth of mobile phone use is transforming many parts of Africa. In Sudan and Gabon, more than half of all adults use their phones to transfer money, the activist website Ushahidi used text messages to map post-election violence in Kenya in 2008 and in Nigeria, mobile music services are a multi-million dollar industry. Now demographers have used the way people purchase airtime to map wealth in Cote d'Ivoire on Africa's west coast. They analysed a dataset from one of the country's largest mobile operators containing caller IDs, the cell towers used for each call and the time and amount of all airtime purchases. The researchers say an individual's airtime buying habits are a good proxy for his or her income. As a result, they were able to to map wealth across the entire country. Their map clearly shows the wealthy cities such as Abidjan, the largest seaport in West Africa. But it also shows an unexpectedly wealthy region in the conflict-ridden area that borders Liberia. This wealth probably arises from illegal activities on the border, such as drug, arms and human trafficking, they conclude."

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It would be nice to see a map (2)

i kan reed (749298) | about a year ago | (#44960227)

To be told that something works by an academic is nice, but it is hardly satisfying. Without the data, rigor, or representation, we have no pragmatic way to see how useful this actually is.

Re:It would be nice to see a map (4, Informative)

Bigbutt (65939) | about a year ago | (#44960451)

Remove the last character from the link.


Re:It would be nice to see a map (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44960599)

There is a map in the PDF provided for the study. Numerous maps in fact, you lazy bastard.

Re:It would be nice to see a map (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44961441)

But then I have to RTFA - couldn't we just have the map in TFS?

Re:It would be nice to see a map (2)

pjt33 (739471) | about a year ago | (#44961197)

I don't think the editor (or the submitter, if they wrote the headline) saw a map. If they had, they might realise that Côte d'Ivoire is a fairly small part of Africa. I'm fairly sure they wouldn't think "Wealth in America mapped using mobile phone data" is a suitable headline for an article which only looks at data from Manhattan.

Wealth in Africa is... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44960233)

Anyone who owns a mobile phone.

Re:Wealth in Africa is... (3, Informative)

Sarten-X (1102295) | about a year ago | (#44960575)

Hardly. Basic mobile phones in West Africa cost about $20, or about a month's wages, when purchased in a store. When bought from a street vendor or from a friend, they can be had for as little as $1 for a very low-end model.

Where in America, a phone is a status symbol showing how much wealth you can spend luxury, in Africa it's a declaration that you will be a part of modern globally-connected society. To cultures emphasizing family and tribal relationships, and now facing decline as tribe members leave for economic gain elsewhere, a cell phone represents the ability to always stay connected. A village that is still able to contact its departed members is held in higher regard than one with just money. Much of Africa's history has seen forms of money come and go, but territorial influence is always valued.

Re:Wealth in Africa is... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44961297)

The joke was that Africa is still, for the most part, a poor 3rd world continent but whatever.

Re:Wealth in Africa is... (1)

Internetuser1248 (1787630) | about a year ago | (#44964819)

The joke was that Africa is still, for the most part, a poor 3rd world continent but whatever.

Yes I find poverty hilarious too. Good joke.

Re:Wealth in Africa is... (5, Interesting)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about a year ago | (#44960679)

Anyone who owns a mobile phone.

Not true. In Africa, even the very poor often have phones. They can buy used phones for less than $5, which are often refurbished first-world throwaways. Phone services are very cheap, and in Africa, phones are a critical economic tool. "Minutes" on your phone are more inflation proof than the official currency, and peer-to-peer transactions are often possible. So even a farmer selling his produce by the roadside will find that a cellphone is an economic necessity. So if he has to choose between the phone and shoes for his kids, he will choose the phone. The shoes can come later.

Four oh Four (2)

cyberpocalypse (2845685) | about a year ago | (#44960235)

Would be nice to have an article linked correctly...

Re:Four oh Four (1)

i kan reed (749298) | about a year ago | (#44960273)

Well, nevermind, that completely invalidates my post earlier. Slashdot needs a "Sorry, I was wrong" button, if not an edit button.

Re:Four oh Four (1)

HornWumpus (783565) | about a year ago | (#44961213)

Just change your /. name to 'Sorry, I was wrong'. That will be close enough.

Re:Four oh Four (1)

Sorry, I was wrong (3284153) | about a year ago | (#44961517)

Sorry, that's taken.

Re:Four oh Four (1)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about a year ago | (#44961795) edit button.

Never! For all that is good in this universe, I pray that the Slashdot staff will never implement such a horrible atrocity. It would be a crime against humanity.

Just post a correction, and leave it at that.

Re:Four oh Four (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44971829)

Except an edit button need not allow you to delete what you have already written. It could simply allow you to add said correct.

Re:Four oh Four (1)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about a year ago | (#44971933)

"Reply to This" is good enough...

Alternative Explanation for Buying Habits (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44960373)

Perhaps there is simply a very high need for airtime in certain regions that has nothing to do with wealth. If a farmer is nearly bankrupt but pays for new, expensive farming equipment (perhaps even taking on a huge debt) it doesn't mean he is wealthy. He's broke. The expenditure is just something needed it to keep his business going.

Before someone flames me for not RTFA, I got a 404 error when I followed the link.

Proxies can be two-edged... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44960571)

...The researchers say an individual's airtime buying habits are a good proxy for his or her income....

They can also be a good proxy for corruption, if bribery or fraud can get you airtime...

or for hacking, if the local provider is incompetent.....

But... (2)

TheCarp (96830) | about a year ago | (#44960591)

Looking at the map, particularly the second one showing the "coefficient of variation" I can't help but notice that not all of the hot spots are on the boarder, but, they do all seem to be associated with rivers. River crossing on the interior and where rivers move close to borders on the exterior.

Basically wealth is concentrated in unsurprising places along where you would expect to find trade routes. Why connect this with illegal activity aside from being more attention grabbing? I mean I don't doubt some of the wealth there is from illegal activity but, just because legitimate trade routes get used for illicit activity for rather mundane reasons (its where the money is)

Re:But... (1)

interkin3tic (1469267) | about a year ago | (#44961021)

I'm just reading the summary, but "unexpectedly" seems like a word that might not be carelessly used. Legal trade is probably known and wouldn't be too hard to compare.

Alternatively, perhaps the researchers speculated that part of it might be illegal trafficking in addition to the usual stuff. Perhaps they suggested this could be a good method of identifying illegal trade spots. And then the downstream journalists siezed on that idle speculation even though it was not the point. Relevant PhD comics comic. []

I should skim the actual paper, but I'm procrastinating FROM reading papers on a totally different field, so I'm not going to :-P

Re:But... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44964103)

Obligatory XKCD []

Re:But... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45024473)

While at first glance the large areas of traffic on the Liberian border far from any nearby city might be difficult to understand, I would think it's almost certainly caused by the large number of Ivorian refugees living just over the border in Liberia (about 60,000 I think). These people need to hop over the border to communicate and recharge their phones, so it's likely they would take out big recharges, rather than small ones (which would require frequent long walks).

"Secret" 3G Intel Chip Gives Snoops Backdoor PC Ac (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44960709)

"Secret" 3G Intel Chip Gives Snoops Backdoor PC Access

vPro processors allow remote access even when computer is turned off

Paul Joseph Watson | | September 26, 2013 []

Intel Core vPro processors contain a "secret" 3G chip that allows remote disabling and backdoor access to any computer even when it is turned off.

Although the technology has actually been around for a while, the attendant privacy concerns are only just being aired. The "secret" 3G chip that Intel added to its processors in 2011 caused little consternation until the NSA spying issue exploded earlier this year as a result of Edward Snowden's revelations.

In a promotional video for the technology, Intel brags that the chips actually offer enhanced security because they don't require computers to be "powered on" and allow problems to be fixed remotely. The promo also highlights the ability for an administrator to shut down PCs remotely "even if the PC is not connected to the network," as well as the ability to bypass hard drive encryption.

"Intel actually embedded the 3G radio chip in order to enable its Anti Theft 3.0 technology. And since that technology is found on every Core i3/i5/i7 CPU after Sandy Bridge, that means a lot of CPUs, not just new vPro, might have a secret 3G connection nobody knew about until now,"reports Softpedia.

Jeff Marek, director of business client engineering for Intel, acknowledged that the company's Sandy Bridge" microprocessor, which was released in 2011, had "the ability to remotely kill and restore a lost or stolen PC via 3G."

"Core vPro processors contain a second physical processor embedded within the main processor which has it's own operating system embedded on the chip itself," writes Jim Stone. "As long as the power supply is available and and in working condition, it can be woken up by the Core vPro processor, which runs on the system's phantom power and is able to quietly turn individual hardware components on and access anything on them."

Although the technology is being promoted as a convenient way for IT experts to troubleshoot PC issues remotely, it also allows hackers or NSA snoops to view the entire contents of somebody's hard drive, even when the power is off and the computer is not connected to a wi-fi network.

It also allows third parties to remotely disable any computer via the "secret" 3G chip that is built into Intel's Sandy Bridge processors. Webcams could also be remotely accessed.

"This combination of hardware from Intel enables vPro access ports which operate independently of normal user operations," reports TG Daily. "These include out-of-band communications (communications that exist outside of the scope of anything the machine might be doing through an OS or hypervisor), monitoring and altering of incoming and outgoing network traffic. In short, it operates covertly and snoops and potentially manipulates data."

Not only does this represent a privacy nightmare, it also dramatically increases the risk of industrial espionage.

The ability for third parties to have remote 3G access to PCs would also allow unwanted content to be placed on somebody's hard drive, making it easier for intelligence agencies and corrupt law enforcement bodies to frame people.

"The bottom line? The Core vPro processor is the end of any pretend privacy," writes Stone. "If you think encryption, Norton, or anything else is going to ensure your privacy, including never hooking up to the web at all, think again. There is now more than just a ghost in the machine."

Facebook @ []
FOLLOW Paul Joseph Watson @ []
--- [] [] [] [] [] []

Where's the 1% ? (1)

doubletalk (3009215) | about a year ago | (#44960791)

Because that's the real wealth, the rest is illusion.

"wealth probably arises" (0)

nurb432 (527695) | about a year ago | (#44960883)

Wealth cant be accumulated via legal means and we just have to assume it was due to illegal means by default if you become wealthy?

F-ing liberal

IRS RFP on the way... (1)

neorush (1103917) | about a year ago | (#44960887)

If this correlation of phone spending to income holds for the first world, how long before a department like the IRS uses this kind of meta data to flag potential tax evaders.

Re:IRS RFP on the way... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44961139)

They already do. If you have a conspicuous spend of any kind that isn't accounted for by taxed income, expect a visit. Expect them to trawl through yacht marina booking data, restaurant bills, jewelery receipts - any kind of luxury item. If they can get any kind of a list of big spenders, they can instantly run it up against your estimated savings...

sell structured settlement (-1, Flamebait)

sellstructured (3165301) | about a year ago | (#44960897)

Even though a structured settlement may stipulate that the annuity cannot be sold, don’t assume that door is closed. Start making inquiries with a reputable annuity sale company to walk you through the details of overcoming what appears to be a solid, immovable contract.

This wealth... arises from illegal activities... (1)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about a year ago | (#44960931)

How many times does it have to be said? War is good business, and presents many opportunities. The markets are always freest when the authorities are occupied with other matters. The same was true in the US during its war for 'independence'.

Re:This wealth... arises from illegal activities.. (1)

Medievalist (16032) | about a year ago | (#44961683)

War is good business, and presents many opportunities. The markets are always freest when the authorities are occupied with other matters. The same was true in the US during its war for 'independence'.

War is fantastic for promoting sexual slavery, to give just one example. Dick Cheney approves!

Nah, that was me (1)

Eunuchswear (210685) | about a year ago | (#44962369)

Reading slashdot while on holiday.

(I was there last year, don't know if this dataset includes me)

MBA college in noida (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44969115)

IIBS is rewarded as one of the best MBA college in noida with high standard of education and providing best placements to its students college in noida [] .

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