Quantifying travel behavior for infectious disease research: a comparison of data from surveys and mobile phones

Sci Rep. 2014 Jul 14:4:5678. doi: 10.1038/srep05678.


Human travel impacts the spread of infectious diseases across spatial and temporal scales, with broad implications for the biological and social sciences. Individual data on travel patterns have been difficult to obtain, particularly in low-income countries. Travel survey data provide detailed demographic information, but sample sizes are often small and travel histories are hard to validate. Mobile phone records can provide vast quantities of spatio-temporal travel data but vary in spatial resolution and explicitly do not include individual information in order to protect the privacy of subscribers. Here we compare and contrast both sources of data over the same time period in a rural area of Kenya. Although both data sets are able to quantify broad travel patterns and distinguish regional differences in travel, each provides different insights that can be combined to form a more detailed picture of travel in low-income settings to understand the spread of infectious diseases.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Cell Phone*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Data Collection
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Kenya
  • Malaria / epidemiology*
  • Malaria / prevention & control
  • Malaria / transmission
  • Male
  • Travel