How Mobile Positioning Data provides needed insights for the decision-making process
By: Arthur Glenn Maail
With the fight against the spread of COVID-19 pandemic continues to intensify, the governments around the world have been contemplating the best strategy to reopen the economy to stop downward-spiral effects of the mounting economic costs. In the tourism sector, where the recovery is expected to take months or even years, the need for accurate, timely, and granular statistical data is of paramount importance to drive the decision-making process in designing interventions to revive the industry. Yet, while demand is increasing, traditional ways of collecting tourism data have been proven and continue to be more challenging in the age of COVID-19 pandemic, limiting the supply of data. This is where the Mobile Positioning Data (MPD), based on anonymized large-scale mobile subscriber’s location data, offers a better alternative to provide tourism statistics.
Tourism is currently one of the most affected sectors due to measures implemented by the authorities to tackle the spread of the virus. The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) estimated 20%-30% decline in 2020 global tourist arrivals, translating to a loss of 300 to US$ 450 billion in spending by international visitors. Opening up the tourism industry will be challenging, since like no other economic activity with social impact, tourism is based on interaction amongst people. In Indonesia, the data from the national statistical office shows the 11.8% decline of international visitors between the period of January and February 2020 as compared to the data recorded in the same period last year. The local governments have been experiencing the effect of the pandemic to their economy. The province of Bali, for example, has stopped all international flights to the island due to travel restriction, affecting more than 50% of all economic activities as they heavily depended on the travel and tourism industries.
Hence, the pressure is building on governments to explain their plans. Experts are predicting that reopening the economy will happen in phases, with leaders planning to gradually ease the restrictions in the regions with limited transmissions and adequate public health system capacity. MPD solution offers several benefits in this environment. It requires no human interactions as compared to commonly used household surveys and immigration records. It can provide granular and longitudinal data by regions to monitor tourism trends and destinations in different parts of the country to tailor a specific solution. It can fill the data gaps to estimate and measure the impact of economic shocks. The availability of data in almost real-time also means the authorities will have capabilities to make quick decisions in this rapidly changing pandemic environment.
Critiques have also warned about privacy and security concerns in using such data. However, this highly sensitive but also very valuable data that could be used anonymously and aggregated thus ensuring the privacy of the subscribers and providing valuable insights in fields like tourism statistics. Innovative and responsible approaches to using this data can contribute to solving this public health crisis and reviving the economy while guarding against unnecessary and improper intrusions to our privacy.