The Nigeria CDR Stakeholder Conference was held on Thursday 04 August at the Envoy Hotel, Abuja. This conference aimed at understanding how mobile operator data, and particularly Call Detail Records (CDRs), could be used to support Nigeria in attaining its national sustainable development agenda.
The event was organised by the Flowminder Foundation and Data Scientists Network Nigeria (DSN), in collaboration with the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) and Keoun Technologies Ltd.
Flowminder is the global leader in mobile operator data analytics for development and humanitarian purposes. DSN is the leading organisation in artificial intelligence in Nigeria.
Over 30 participants attended the conference, including representatives from ministries, departments and agencies, such as the Ministry of Communication and Digital Economy, the Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning, the Office of the National Security Advisor (ONSA), the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), the Association of Licensed Telecom Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) as well as the National Population Commission, the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and the Nigeria Data Protection Bureau (NDPB). The conference generated much interest from MNOs and mobile data providers and the event was also marked by the presence of 9Mobile and MTN.
Opening remarks were delivered by the representative of the Director General of NITDA Bernard Ewah, followed by a presentation by the organisers and a panel discussion. The conference focused on the value as well as the challenges of processing Call Detail Records (CDRs) for development purposes in Nigeria. CDRs are a passively generated dataset produced when a subscriber uses their mobile device to make or receive a call, send or receive a message or use mobile data (we call these “network events”). CDRs record the nearest cell tower through which such network events are routed (i.e. not the subscriber’s exact location). The content of these network events (what is written in an SMS or said in a call) is not present in the data. Flowminder has been training DSN’s data scientists on how to conduct analysis of aggregated and pseudonymised CDRs to produce information that supports evidence-based decision-making.
- The Keynote speaker Anthony Obi, past General manager of MTN Nigeria, advocated for maximising the potential of mobile data in order to provide decision makers with reliable, large scale information in a fast changing world.
He highlighted that data holds a strong promise of transforming society, reducing poverty, controlling the spread of disease, creating new jobs and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
- CDR data can be safely analysed and processed using standards, methods and software, such as Flowminder’s open source software FlowKit, which protect the privacy of subscribers. For example, to preserve the security of subscribers’ personal data, Flowminder’s CDR projects are always set up so that the CDR data remain behind the data controller’s firewall (a type of cyber
defence protecting IT systems from an external intrusion).
- Even though the benefits of using CDR data for good in Nigeria are significant, some challenges are to be considered, including: representativeness of the data, protection of personal data, lack of common and clear guidelines on data privacy and data sharing, and inadequate internal human, technical and process capacity.
- CDR project initiatives must comply with national guidelines including the Nigeria Data Protection Regulation (NDPR) to protect personal data and ensure Nigerians’ right to privacy. Thorough processes must be followed for the data to be shared externally, including with international organisations.
- The Nigeria Data Protection Bureau aims to foster a safe transaction of data whilst encouraging collaboration amongst various stakeholders.
- In Flowminder’s CDR initiatives, CDR data are first pseudonymised (anonymised) by the mobile network operator before being processed.
- The processing of pseudonymised CDR data could be done in two ways: on-site, behind the operator’s firewall; or off-site with consideration for a central processing system that would standardise procedures and mapping indicators.
- Individual CDR data should never leave the country. This is why Flowminder strengthens local capacity such as by training DSN on the processing and analysis of CDR data, to build in-country capacity and enable trained analysts in Nigeria to conduct analyses using tools such as FlowKit.
- Participants in the conference are committed to advocating for CDR data initiatives in Nigeria, and ensuring that the data are processed lawfully and ethically to benefit the inhabitants of Nigeria.
- Flowminder and DSN should continue their partnership, where Flowminder would act as an adviser and support resource in unlocking mobile data partnerships, following its successful track records in other countries, including Ghana and Haiti among others, and DSN as implementing analytical partner.
- Creating a simple and clear template on data sharing would help address issues related to the current lack of common and standardised guidelines on this aspect.
- Fostering closer collaboration and partnership among the various data actors is essential to promote awareness and safe use of data for social good.
- Significant investment in data-related initiatives is required from donors and government agencies.
- We must build internal capacity through investment in data literacy programmes, data exchange platforms and processes for the wellbeing of all in Nigeria.
- Delegates have been invited to join a Nigeria Mobile Phone Data User Group to take this work to the next level.
National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA)