Statistics Estonia: Mobility has decreased during the emergency situation ({{contentCtrl.commentsTotal}})

Tallinn's Old Town during the emergency situation.
Tallinn's Old Town during the emergency situation. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

People are following the rules of the emergency situation and movement has decreased, the preliminary results of a mobility analysis carried out by Statistics Estonia using anonymous mobile phone data show.

The results show that 150,000 more than usual stayed within the area of their local mobile phone mast.

Mart Mägi, Director General of Statistics Estonia, said: "The first results of the analyses show that mobility has decreased during the emergency situation. The share of 'local' mobile phones increased by 13 percent in Estonia after the declaration of the emergency situation."

Statistics Estonia is using aggregate anonymous data tables to analyze the movement of mobile phone numbers prepared and provided by telecommunications companies Elisa, Tele2 and Telia.

Each anonymous phone number has been assigned a main location and it was observed for how long the number was away from the main location. The mobile operators identified the main location of each mobile phone number.

To do this, they determined the mobile phone masts that the number was connected to the longest in a 24-hour period. Both average and maximum distance from the main location were taken into account.

The results were generalised at the level of local municipalities and, when possible, at a more detailed level: by local area (group of settlements) in rural areas and by urban regions in Tallinn and Tartu.

Real-time data of the clients of mobile operators were not used in the study. It is not possible to analyse the movement patterns of individuals on the basis of the anonymous data, Statistics Estonia said in a statement.

A longer description of the methods Statistics Estonia is using to carry out the survey can be found at the bottom of this article.

Mägi said the purpose of the mobility analysis ordered by the crisis commission is to study how Estonian society has adopted the measures introduced during the emergency situation.

"The emergency situation has now lasted for three weeks, and during this time we have agreed on one important principle – in order to prevent the spread of the virus, we should stay at home as much as possible," he said.

"According to last Friday's agreement with the mobile operators, they separately analysed the mobility of their clients, using anonymous data from the mobile network starting from 20 February 2020. They will continue the mobility analyses and their transfer until the end of the emergency situation.

"The cooperation with the mobile operators has been great and I applaud their quick work in this time-sensitive project. All mobile operators sent their mobility analysis aggregate tables by yesterday, and we calculated the rate for staying local for the whole country."

Statistics Estonia will publish more detailed results on April 8.

During the emergency situation people are being asked to stay inside as much as possible, to work from home and to order groceries online. A "2x2" rules is also in place meaning people can only gather in public in groups of two and must stay two meters away from others. The rules are in place to stop the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19).

The mobility analysis was carried out in cooperation between Statistics Estonia, mobile operators, the Government Office, the Health Board, the Data Protection Inspectorate, ministries, the IT Centre of the Ministry of Finance and Positium.

Background information

ERR News has published Statistics Estonia's description of the mobility analysis in full:

Mobile operators are using a method developed in cooperation with Statistics Estonia, ensuring reliability of the mobility analysis.

Elisa, Tele2 and Telia separate prepared mobility analyses of their clients, based on anonymous data from the mobile network starting from 20 February 2020. They will continue the mobility analyses and their transfer until the end of the emergency situation.

The mobile operators identified the main location of each mobile phone number.

For that, they determined the mobile phone masts that the number was connected to the longest in a 24-hour period. Both average and maximum distance from the main location were taken into account. Real-time data of clients were not used in the analyses. It is not possible to analyse movement patterns of individual people on the basis of the anonymous data. The mobility analysis does not show which countries Estonian residents have been to or are at or where they are going.

Each anonymous phone number was assigned a main location and it was observed for how long the number was away from the main location.

  • An anonymous mobile phone number was considered 'local' if it remained in its main location for at least 95% of a 24-hour period.
  • An anonymous phone number was considered 'moving' if it remained away from its main location for more than 5% of a 24-hour period.

The results were generalised at the level of local municipalities and, when possible, at a more detailed level: by local area (group of settlements) in rural areas and by urban regions in Tallinn and Tartu.

Statistics Estonia reviewed the aggregate data received from the mobile operators and calculated the rate for staying local, which was used for output such as "87% of the mobile phones in XXX area remain local". Enterprise Positium visualised the mobility analysis results on the Estonian map.

The purpose of the mobility analysis ordered by the crisis committee of the Government of the Republic is to study how the Estonian society has adopted the measures introduced during the emergency situation, i.e. whether people have stayed more local.

The anonymous data are not used to solve any other tasks. The data storage period for the data used in the mobility analysis lasts until the analysis purpose has been achieved and the emergency situation ends. After the end of the project, all data will be deleted.

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Editor: Helen Wright

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