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Researchers from the University of Latvia and LMT have created an approach that, thanks to statistics of mobile network events, allows real-time observation of human behaviour and how it changes under the influence of various events. The first results show that the government's decision to declare a state of emergency has significantly changed the behaviour of the Latvian residents and most people throughout the country are respecting the instructions #StayAtHome.
“Analysing the mobile data before and after the declaration of the emergency, as well as comparing the call activity last year and in March this year, we can say with certainty that it shows not only the economic activity of the people, but also the alert level. The declaration of the state of emergency has significantly affected the number of mobile calls and also the behaviour of people in Latvia,” points out prof. Gundars Bērziņš, the Dean of the Faculty of Business, Management and Economics of the University of Latvia.
The data show that there has been a significant increase in calls on all key dates – March 12, 13 (the state of emergency was declared and came into effect) and on March 16 (the suspension of regular international passenger services was announced), both compared to the beginning of March this year and to the same period one year ago. The amount of calls has significantly exceeded even the number of calls at the New Year’s Eve.
The data also show that human activity has moved rapidly from the cities and working centres to residential areas and outside cities. Mobile activity at the Riga International Airport and all major shopping centres in the capital city, as well as at the University of Latvia and Riga Technical University, Dailes Theatre and other central locations, has fallen sharply on weekdays as well as on weekends. In turn, the activity of people in residential areas close to Riga and other cities has significantly increased, for example, in Langstiņi, Mežkalne, Mārupe, Carnikava, Melluži, Lapmežciems, Ogre, Sigulda, Jūrmala, etc.
"There is some good news. The first is that the COVID-19 crisis has managed to do what we hadn’t been able for years. It has returned people to the regions of Latvia, significantly relieving the pressure on Riga. Secondly, our data confirm that all regions, counties and cities in Latvia currently respect the instruction to stay at home, so we are in a relatively good situation right now. At the same time, the places have emerged where it is essential to control that the number of people does not violate the requirements of social distance,” emphasizes prof. Juris Binde, LMT President. According to the results of the research, since the declaration of the state of emergency in the country, both on weekdays and on weekends the activity of people in the places of recreation has rapidly increased – including Jūrmala and Salacgrīva, having quite a small number of visitors at other times.
The data show that people have changed not only their places of activity, but their behaviour on weekdays has become different as well. For example, before an emergency, the highest call activity was observed at 11.00 and 17.00. Whereas, after March 12 high call activity is observed only at 11.00, then it rapidly declined.
"It is already clear that with our approach we can continue to monitor the situation and provide decision-makers with real-time information about the largest places of gathering and changes in behaviour. We can tell whether people will continue to work from home or return to work in normal mode,” adds G. Bērziņš.
This approach is fully in line with the requirements of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), but at the same time allows for an accurate assessment of the behaviour of the population, such as the location, movement and time of a particular activity. The study analyses the “Big Data” - LMT mobile network event statistics in the period from March 2019 to March 2020, as well as provides comparisons for the period from 2016 to date. The total volume of network events analysed is 160 million in March this year and 1.9 billion in the last year.