Assessing the quality of home detection from mobile phone data for official statistics

09/20/2018
by   Maarten Vanhoof, et al.
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Mobile phone data are an interesting new data source for official statistics. However, multiple problems and uncertainties need to be solved before these data can inform, support or even become an integral part of statistical production processes. In this paper, we focus on arguably the most important problem hindering the application of mobile phone data in official statistics: detecting home locations. We argue that current efforts to detect home locations suffer from a blind deployment of criteria to define a place of residence and from limited validation possibilities. We support our argument by analysing the performance of five home detection algorithms (HDAs) that have been applied to a large, French, Call Detailed Record (CDR) dataset ( 18 million users, 5 months). Our results show that criteria choice in HDAs influences the detection of home locations for up to about 40 HDAs perform poorly when compared with a validation dataset (the 35-gap), and that their performance is sensitive to the time period and the duration of observation. Based on our findings and experiences, we offer several recommendations for official statistics. If adopted, our recommendations would help in ensuring a more reliable use of mobile phone data vis-à-vis official statistics.

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