Rebuilding Mocoa with Big Data

April 15, 2020

The possibilities of Big Data to contribute to social good are infinite and has proven itself as an indispensable tool to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.

The natural disaster that occurred in Mocoa, capital of Putumayo, in March 2017, affected more than 22,000 people, killed 332 and impacted 48 neighbourhoods. This event motivated the Centre for International Strategic Thinking (Cepei), Telefónica Movistar and LUCA to carry out a study using Big Data, consisting of the exploration of mobile connectivity data to understand how the population was displaced as a result of what happened between 31 March and 1 April 2017.

Through the analysis of anonymised and aggregated mobile data, it was possible to gain an understanding of the internal and external mobilisation processes before, during and after the tragedy. This type of analysis seeks to provide useful information in order to strengthen future planning and decision-making processes in the territory with respect to the management of natural disasters, to provide special attention to the mobility and care of the population. The recording and monitoring of the impact generated by the tragedy was achieved using non-traditional sources of data to complement traditional data sources, such as official statistics. From this, a proper plan could be formulated with focus on resilience and risk prevention, as stated in the ODS target 13.1

Strengthen resilience and adaptive capacity to climate-related hazards and natural disasters in all countries.

ODS target 13.1

For more information on what happened in Mocoa, see the story "Rebuilding Mocoa through data", on the Data República platform, sponsored by Cepei. The results of the investigation, available on the platform, highlighted a decrease of mobiliation of 45% of the population in the days surrounding the tragedy, with the main places being Pasto, Sibundoy, Puerto Caicedo, Orito and Bogotá. Similarly, it was found that the population did not return to Mocoa as planned, suggesting that there was a failure to ensure the minimum quality of life conditions that had been envisaged.

Projects such as this one highlight the importance of generating public-private alliances, which allow for greater and improved data collection for decision making on issues affecting citizens. In particular, the project has demonstrated how useful mobile data can be as a source of population mobility, especially relevant in situations of crisis or emergency.