The 105 million crossing question
Technology is favoured by those backing Brexit as an answer to the border question but one piece of recent research has technology scoping out the scale of the problem. Its a Department of the Economy publication on cross border movement and cleverly it has used mobile phone data to come up with the figure – around 105 million crossings per year.
The research paper outlines that mobile phone customers communicate their positions with their networks of cells every time they use their mobile phones to text or make a call or via applications running on smart phone devices, such as web searching, location services etc. Each such communication is registered by one of the network cells as an ‘event’ with a unique and anonymous user ID and its these events that have been used to reveal the overall figure and much more.
As well as the staggering figure which is consistent with other research it’s able to drill down further. So for Northern travellers heading South 36% of crossings originated in Derry LGD and 40% of the border crossings by NI residents to ROI went through the Derry crossing zone. This was 34,600 crossings each weekday. Almost 20% of crossings by NI residents went through Newry and Mourne,
The most popular crossing zone for ROI residents when they enter NI is Newry and Mourne, with 27% of crossings, followed
by Fermanagh with 25% of crossings. The research found that 17% of the Northern Ireland population made a cross border trip over the study period. The analysis shows that people living closest to the border account for the vast majority of cross border trips. The MNO analysis found that 60% of the people who crossed the border lived in a border LGD and they made 92% of all crossings.
Its all anonymised but they’ve also been able to make further assumptions about the purpose of visits, for example inferring home and place of work locations of mobile phone users are derived by assumptions on the length of time spent at a fixed location overnight and by the length of time spent at a usual location during the day.
So technology is able to identify massive movement across 310 miles and over 270 crossings every day. But it won’t know what’s in the boot.