New research could find literacy levels based on mobile data usage

The amount of texts sent and received could determine literacy rates

New research could find literacy levels based on mobile data usage

Photo: PA Images

Illiteracy is one of the biggest factors creating poverty in the developing world, and now new research is showing what parts of the world are most affected by it based on mobile data.

Researchers from Telenor Group Research in Norway have surveyed 76,000 mobile phone users in an unnamed Asian nation to try and determine literacy rates there.

Discovering literacy rates is a very expensive survey to usually carry out, with door to door questioning the way it's usually done. Now with using mobile data, it lets the surveys happen unnoticed to the participants.

The survey will look at the dataset of traffic going to and from mobile phones. Individual networks will be made out of this information. looking at who people were calling or texting, what time of day it happened, and how often.

From there, the researchers will base their results on the outlying cases, those who were sending and receiving texts from fewer people. Significant differences between the number of incoming and outgoing texts is one way to judge literacy rates.

Including other factors such as economic and social features, the researchers say they can predict literacy rates with 70% accuracy.

The information gained from this research will become valuable to charities and aid agencies working in the developing world, helping them understand what areas their resources should go to.