Can mobile phones map income distributions in Africa?

Screen Shot 2013-09-30 at 9.55.39 AMTired of mapping local-level income by night lighting? Try cell phone minutes. On the left, levels of use in Cote d’Ivoire and on the right, variance (i.e. inequality of use).

Based on mobile phone communications and history of airtime credit purchases, we estimate the relative income of individuals, the diversity and inequality of income, and an indicator for socioeconomic segregation for fine grained regions of an African country. Our study shows how to use mobile phone datasets as a starting point to understand the socio-economic state of a country, which can be especially useful in countries with few resources to conduct large surveys.

Article here. h/t Atlantic