MPD is a great source of near real-time or historical data on populations for disaster management

We expect natural disasters and global crises to become more frequent, making communities around the world vulnerable to their impact. But, if we know the approximate location of mobile users at any given time, and how they react in terms of their mobility in crisis circumstances, it is possible to plan a thorough response in these situations.

Using MPD, authorities can assess the exposure risk of populations in disaster scenarios. As opposed to the static picture painted by census records, MPD shows where people actually move, which is a great benefit considering that people are mobile. The unique value of MPD in disaster situations is that the data is passively collected with regular intervals without one-on-one interaction. MPD also allows looking back in time to compare behaviour during ‘normal’ scenarios or during previous disaster scenarios.

The benefits of using this innovative data source are manifold. MPD can:

  • show the regular mobility and de facto population. This is beneficial when electricity or connectivity is compromised and real-time information cannot be gathered;
  • show mobility out of the crisis area which helps to assess whether the information from authorities is reaching vulnerable groups well (time frame of near real-time to 24 hrs). If not a significant number of people are moving away from the area, it could show that the necessary information does not reach vulnerable groups in time;
  • help monitor whether special restrictions placed by authorities have been effective or if they should be adjusted.

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Building resilient communities with BuildERS

The BuildERS project aims to identify vulnerable groups and find innovative ways to help these groups in disaster situations, thus building the resilience of communities. Positium has been working with the Estonian Rescue Board and the University of Tartu on finding solutions to improve responses during disasters, such as volcanic eruptions, storms, or cyber attacks. The aim of our sub-project was to find out if and how MPD can be used for disaster management in Estonia and Indonesia.

Read more about the project.

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Applying MPD in COVID-19 mitigation in Estonia

When the COVID-19 emergency situation was established in Estonia by a government decision on March 12, 2020, several movement restrictions were imposed and the public debated whether there must be a data-driven decision-making process, relying on mobile operator data. Three mobile network operators, Positium and the Statistics Office were tasked by the Estonian government to provide essential mobility information – how has people’s mobility changed during the emergency situation. Based on the work, decisions were taken on how to improve mobility restriction enforcement in some areas.

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