Using Mobile Network Data for Development: How it works

Blog by Derval Usher and Darren Hanniffy: “…We aim to equip decision makers with data tools so that they have access to the analysis on the fly. But to help this scale we need progress in three areas:

1. The framework to support Shared Value partnerships.

2. Shared understanding of The Proposition and the benefits for all parties.

3. Access to finance and a funding strategy, designing-in innovation.

1. Any Public-Private Partnership should be aligned to achieve impact centered on the SDGs through a Shared Value / Inclusive Business approach. Mobile network operators are consumed with the challenge of maintaining or upgrading their infrastructure, driving device sales and sustaining their agent networks to reach the last mile. Measuring impact against the SDGs has not been a priority. Mobile network operators tend not to seek out partnerships with traditional development donors or development implementers. But there is a growing realisation of the potential and the need to partner. It’s important to move from a service level transactional relationship to a strategic partnership approach.

Private sector partners have been fundamental to the success of UN Global Pulse as these companies are often the custodians of the big data sets from which we develop valuable development and humanitarian insights. Although in previous years our private sector partners were framed primarily as data philanthropists, we are beginning to see a shift in the relationship to one of shared value. Our work generates public value and also insights that can enhance business operations. This shared value model is attracting more private enterprises to engage and to explore their own data, and more broadly to investigate the value of their networks and data as part of the data innovation ecosystem, which the Global Pulse lab network will build on as we move forward.

2. Partners need to be more propositional and less charitable. They need to recognise the fact that earning profit may help ensure the sustainability of digital platforms and services that offer developmental impact. Through partnership we can attract innovative finance, deliver mobile for development programmes, measure impact and create affordable commercial solutions to development challenges that become sustainable by design. Pulse Lab Jakarta and Digicel have been flexible with one another which is important as this partnership has not always been a priority for either side all the time. But we believe in unlocking the power of mobile data for development and therefore continue to make progress.

3. Development and commercial strategies should be more aligned to create an enabling environment. Currently they are not. Private sector needs to become a strategic partner to development where multi-annual development funds align with commercial strategy. Mobile network operators continue to invest in their network particularly in developing countries and the digital platform is coming into being in the markets where Digicel operates. But the platform is new and experience is limited within governments, the development community and indeed even within mobile network operators.

We need to see donors actively engage during the development of multi-annual funding facilities….(More)”.