Harvard Researchers Use Cell Phones to Track the Spread of Malaria in Kenya

Looks like a very unlikely weapon is becoming a great tool in fighting Malaria, the cellphone.

According to Harvard researchers, scientists can track the spread of malaria in Kenya using phone calls and text messages.

Quoting study author Caroline Buckee, the report reads;

“Before mobile phones, we had proxies for human travel, like road networks, census data and small-scale GPS studies. But now that mobile phones have spread throughout the world, we can start using these massive amounts of data to quantify human movements on a larger scale and couple this data with knowledge of infection risk.”

The researchers used mobile phone records from June 2008 and June 2009 to track the calls and SMS details from a sample group among 15 million Kenyan mobile phone subscribers. The scientists then compared the volume of subscribers in an area to the area’s known malaria prevalence.

By studying the networks of human and parasite movement, the team of researchers determined the primary sources of malaria and who would become the most likely victim.

The results which were published in the journal Science, reveal that malaria infections and transmission within Kenya is dominated by travel from Lake Victoria on the country’s western edge to the more central capital city of Nairobi.  The study also reveal that the involuntary human carriers of the malaria parasite outnumber the flying limits of mosquitoes in endemic regions.

Journal Science quotes Dr Dr. William Schaffner,

“How travelers acquire malaria elsewhere and bring it home has been mostly surmised from expert knowledge and judgment. Here we’ve used this unrelated cell phone technology.”


Written by Robert

Respected Kenyan blogger, tech evangelist, and social justice activist. Robert is known for his hard-hitting articles and opinions disseminated through his Twitter handle @RobertAlai or Facebook page (

Leave a Reply

Exit mobile version