At least 500,000 people left Kathmandu Valley for surrounding districts and the Tarai within two weeks of the devastating 7.8-magnitude earthquake of April 25.
Across the country, an estimated 1.8 million people left their home districts after the quake.
These movements were tracked by Ncell, the largest private sector telecom company in the country, in cooperation with Flowminder Foundation, a Sweden-based non-profit organisation, which collects, aggregates, integrates and analyses anonymous mobile operator, satellite and household survey data.
Under the initiative taken by Ncell and Flowminder, mobile data of cell phone users were tracked. This, as per Ncell, helped in monitoring movement of people affected by the quake and made post-quake aid distribution effective and efficient.
The Ncell-Flowminder initiative has now been nominated for the Global Mobile (Glomo) Awards 2016, under a sub-category, ‘Mobile in Emergency or Humanitarian Situations’.
Winners of Glomo Awards will be announced during Mobile World Congress scheduled for February 22-25 in Barcelona, Spain, says a statement issued by GSM Association (GSMA), an umbrella body of over 800 mobile operators worldwide and organiser of the award ceremony.
“Although there has been use of mobile phone data in the past to measure population movements, this was the first time the method was adopted to track movement in an ongoing ‘live’ situation,” said Milan Mani Sharma, corporate communications expert at Ncell. “This helped in locating people, easing the process of channelising aid.”
Under the initiative, Ncell provided customer macro data to Flowminder, which processed the information to better understand population displacement and mobility patterns.
The initiative was a part of the WorldPop project, which provides open access to global demographic data that can be used to help tackle major challenges, including emergencies.
“Movement of mobile users was calculated by Flowminder by analysing the movements of de-identified Ncell SIM cards, and combining with WorldPop demographic data,” Sharma said.
Organisations engaged in rescue and relief works, development agencies and researchers used the findings to channelise aid and execute reconstruction works.