Experts Discuss Potential of Innovative Data Sources for Migration Analysis

Capacity Building

Ispra –  A group of experts on big data and alternative data sources, including researchers, private sector representatives, policymakers and practitioners are gathering today (30/11) at the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC) in Ispra, Italy to discuss the potential of Big Data and innovative data sources for migration analysis. The workshop is co-organized by the European Commission’s Knowledge Centre on Migration and Demography (KCMD) and IOM’s Global Migration Data AnalysisCentre (GMDAC).

The workshop aims to review existing concrete applications of big data and other alternative data sources on migration, such as social media platforms and mobile phones, and identify those that hold the biggestpromise for enhanced understanding of migration-related aspects. As a matter of fact, migration data from traditional sources – such as national population censuses, household surveys and administrative sources – are all characterized by serious limitations,including lack of timeliness, coverage, accuracy and incompleteness, particularly in countries with limited resources for data collection and analysis. On the other hand, a small but rapidly growing number of studies and initiatives globally are turning thepotential offered by new technologies into reality, while raising a number of issues.

The workshop will discuss the possibilities offered by big data, but also the obstacles hindering more systematic uses of innovative data sources in the field of migration – namely issues of privacy and ethicaluse of data collected in real time without people’s informed consent; how to address the inherent bias in use of big data, given that users of internet-based platforms and mobile phones are not representative of the population at large; issues of access todata that are mostly held by private actors; and how to use insights gained from big data for informed policymaking on migration. It will also suggest pragmatic steps forward to enhance use of big data for migration analysis.

Outcomes of the workshop, including recommendations and interviews with some of the participants, will be posted on the GMDAC and KCMD website in due course.

Please follow the hashtag #bigdata4migration for live updates on Twitter.

For more information, please contact Marzia Rango at and Michele Vespe at

  • Experts meeting today (30/11) in Ispra, Italy to discuss the potential of Big Data and innovative data sources for migration analysis. Photo: UN Migration Agency/Stylia Kampani 2017