WP5 Overview1

Description of the work package

The potential of mobile phone data as a data source for official statistics is beyond any debate. The overall objective of the FPA is to exploit this rich source to produce estimates of day-time populations as a mature official statistics product. The division of the overall project into both periods SGA-1 and SGA-2 is made to correspond with a crucial milestone for the assumed bottom-up approach of the whole FPA, namely, the access to mobile phone data by the NSIs.

Thus, the work package for this first period of the project will concentrate on granting access to these data for the NSIs for their use in the official statistical production. NSIs face complications to get access to these data due to legal, privacy, strategic, reputational, cost and contractual issues. The goals of this work package are (i) to gather the current experiences about data access to mobile phone data in the European Statistical System, (ii) to obtain access to the mobile phone data for their exploitation in the 2nd period of the project and (iii) to propose some specific complementary potential outputs for official statistics based on this source of information.

The work package will take into account relevant work done already by NSIs within and outside the ESSnet and international organisations and groups such as the Global Working Group on Big Data for Official Statistics. If needed, the work package may invoke consultancy help.

The whole project is conceived of tasks which represent practical work units with specific goals and actions. The different tasks are spread all over the whole project. Here we include those concerning the SGA-1. On the basis of the experciences gained, the tasks for SGA-2 will be defined.

Methodological, quality and technical results of the work package, including intermediate findings, will be used as inputs for the envisaged WP 8 of SGA-2, in case SGA-2 will be realized. When carrying out the tasks listed below, care will be taken that these results will be stored for later use, by using the facilities described at WP 9.


Task 1 – Data access

  • The first action is to describe the current findings about data access in the ESS taking stock of the legislative status of this question.
  • The second action is to contact mobile phone providers with these descriptions. For this purpose a meeting will be organised, possibly in Luxembourg. This meeting is intended to facilitate data access to mobile phone data for this project. As crucial issues to be tackled in this task we recognize
  1. data identifiability,
  2. reputational concerns,
  3. legal issues,
  4. market restrictions,
  5. potential collection costs,
  6. privacy issues.

As an important relevant question it should be elucidated whether microdata or aggregated data from mobile phone providers are needed.Similarly, the possibility to run processes in-site or off-site (at an intermediary’s or MNO’s premises) will be considered. Furthermore, the possibilities to obtain data on foreign sim-cards and the opportunities that such data would open will be considered, taking into account experiences already gained elsewhere. Finally, when contacting potential providers, the possible benefits that the statistical system could bring into a partnership with MNO’s, e.g. certification of algorithms for access and analysis of data, will be reflected on.

Task 2 – Data handling

Preliminary investigation about IT tools and a check at which aggregation level mobile phone data are needed to produce statistical aoutputs in the field of mobile phone data.

Task 3 – Statistical outputs

Describe a statistical output in the domain of dynamic populations (for example seasonal populations) which can be presented to MNO to carry out a pilot.In addition, provided this will not make the negotiations for data access much more difficult, use cases will include longitudinal analyses, such as concerning place of residence, in order to better explore possibilities of data access.

Deliverables (SGA-1 only)


   Report on current status of data access to mobile phone data in the ESS

  month 6  


   Report with recommendations for (minimum) requirements and key issues to data access to mobile phone data

   in order to produce statistical outputs in the field of population dynamics

  month 11

Milestones (SGA-1 only)

  5.3   Organisation of a meeting with Telecom-providers at European level   month 4