New IOM Data Innovation Directory Provides Insight on Migration and Mobility in Times of Crisis

New data platform to better understand migration and human mobility in times of crisis, launched. Photo: Bigstock 

Berlin/Brussels – The International Organization for Migration (IOM) has launched a new data platform to better understand migration and human mobility in times of crisis through new data sources and methodologies such as satellite imagery, artificial intelligence and machine learning, social media and mobile phone data. 

The Data Innovation Directory (DID), which is part of IOM’s Global Migration Data Portal, features more than 50 projects and initiatives that use these data sources to shed light on the implications for mobility during global crises, such as the current COVID-19 pandemic.  

“As countries grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic, harnessing big data to effectively monitor and address social and economic implications has become more important in discussions around the world,” said Frank Laczko, Director of IOM’s Global Migration Data Analysis Centre. “Timely and comprehensive data are invaluable to designing policy responses in health, economy, employment, and mobility.” 

Several of the projects featured in the DID were implemented during the current and past health crises, from Ghana to Estonia, the United States to Singapore. 

One innovative project in Ghana monitored human mobility during lockdown using mobile phone data from Vodafone. The project monitored the volume of movements between regions and city districts before and after lockdown policies were implemented. This provided key insights into the effectiveness of the measures that were taken.  

The results demonstrated that during initial restrictions in urban areas – closing schools and banning public gatherings – it took half a week to decrease movements between districts to 70 per cent of the pre-pandemic average. Once total lockdown was imposed, data indicated that movements fell sharply to 50 per cent of the average.  

The new data directory was presented earlier this week (19-05) in a webinar on the potential of innovative data sources, particularly in times of crisis. Organized by IOM’s Global Migration Data Analysis Centre (GMDAC) and IOM’s Regional Office for the EU, Norway, Switzerland and the UK, webinar panellists and participants discussed how leveraging these sources can address migration data challenges in the EU.  

"Data generated from traditional sources are not sufficient,” said Ola Henrikson, Director of IOM’s Regional Office in Brussels, at a webinar launching the new directory. “The lack of information on geographic coverage and frequency of updates is problematic during emergencies. We can improve this.”  

When natural disasters strike, fast and accurate information on migration flows can save lives. For instance, in the days following the 2015 Nepal earthquake, over 390,000 displaced people needed humanitarian support in surrounding valleys of Kathmandu. Thanks to insights obtained by analysing call detail records (CDRs) of mobile phones, emergency staff knew precisely where to execute disaster relief operations just nine days after the catastrophe erupted.  

“The potential of these data innovations for informing migration policy is far from being fully realized. Early observations show how such innovations can improve our understanding of migration-related phenomena,” added Laczko. 

The Data Innovation Directory was developed by IOM’s GMDAC within the framework of the Big Data for Migration Alliance (BD4M) – a joint collaboration with the EU Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC). 

A comprehensive overview of migration trends in the EU, data sources, their limitations and strengths are available on this dedicated page of the Migration Data Portal   

IOM’s Migration Data Portal is made possible with funding provided by IOM Member States, including the Governments of Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, Netherlands, UK, Norway, Denmark, Ireland and Portugal as well as the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) Switzerland. 

Explore the Data Innovation Directory here

For more information, please contact Marzia Rango at IOM’s Global Migration Data Analysis Centre, Email: 

For media enquiries, please contact Stylia Kampani at IOM’s Global Migration Data Analysis Centre, Tel: +49 160 179 1536, Email:, or Ryan Schroeder at IOM’s Regional Office for the EU, Norway, Switzerland and the UK, Tel: 32-492-25-0234, Email: