In April 2015, the Gorkha earthquake hit Nepal—the worst in more than 80 years. Hundreds of thousands of people were rendered homeless and entire villages were flattened. The earthquake also triggered massive avalanches on Mount Everest, and ultimately killed nearly 9,000 people across the country.

Yet for all the destruction, the toll could have been far greater. Without mitigating or in any way denying the horrible disaster that hit Nepal that day, the responsible use of data helped avoid a worse calamity and may offer lessons for other disasters around the world.

Following the earthquake, government and civil society organizations rushed in to address the humanitarian crisis. Notably, so did the private sector. Nepal’s largest mobile operator, Ncell, for example, decided to share its mobile data—in an aggregated, de-identified way—with the the nonprofit Swedish organization Flowminder. Flowminder then used this data to map population
movements around the country; these real-time maps allowed the government and humanitarian organizations to better target aid and relief to affected communities, thus maximizing the impact of their efforts.

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