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Big Data for Good: Can Big Data Illustrate the Challenges Facing Syrian Refugees in Lebanon?

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Non-traditional data sources ought to be considered for supporting policymaking. In addition to official statistics or traditional data sources, the non-traditional data used in this project are useful in shedding light of the socio-economic challenges confronting Syrian refugees and their host communities. This is especially true for time-sensitive emergencies, where traditional data sources might be outdated or unavailable. In these situations, these alternative streams of information can assist decision making by informing policymakers on “near real time” changes.

The reported findings were only possible as researchers and Telecom Operators maintained close communication, that paved the way for fruitful research and action and exploited the potential of calls and internet consumption data, all while maintaining the privacy of users. Apart from open sources, policymakers should take advantage of the wealth of data that are only available to them.  The digital footprint left by users’ activities can prove to be of great usefulness in estimating various indicators of population conditions.