A study published in the journal Science was done in Rwanda on the use of someone’s mobile phone records to gather information about the distribution of wealth or poverty. Researchers used details about when calls were made and received and the length of the calls to build an algorithm about how wealthy or impoverished a given cellphone user is. The model can be used on the individual level, and also answer more specific questions, like whether households have electricity.
This study is important in terms of statistics, political science, and political geography because of the implications that it has to estimate the “geographic distribution of poverty and wealth.” While it is widely known that the developing world faces poverty, accurate statistics on poverty are hard to collect. This study shows a new possibility in collecting geographic information on the distribution of wealth.