Researchers have developed an AI algorithm to accurately predict the gender of pre-paid mobile phone users, which could be useful in crises.

Phone tracking technology is already used to locate those in need of aid in humanitarian crises; but the latest development could help further, for example by identifying vulnerable groups such as women with potentially young children.

Mobile phones are one of the fastest growing technologies in the developing world with global penetration rates reaching 90 per cent. However, the fact that most phones in developing countries are pre-paid means that the data lacks key information about the person carrying the phone, including gender and other demographic data, which could be useful in a crisis.

Now a team of researchers from the Data Science Institute and Department of Computing at Imperial College London have developed a machine learning algorithm, which is a form of AI.  The team used it to analyse mobile phone data from 10,000 users in a developing and developed country. They found it could reliably predict people’s gender from the way they use their phone.

The researchers showed that their algorithm could predict the gender of half a million users as well as the proportion of female users in a group with high precision. The team say this technology could be used to enhance aid efforts during humanitarian crises.

Find out more about this latest development on the Imperial Colleague website here.