Telefónica Joins UNICEF's MagicBox Initiative

Driving the use of Big Data for Social Good

A small girl stands inside the doorway of her home in Moravia, a poor neighbourhood in Medellín, capital of Antioquia Department.
28 February 2017

MWC, BarcelonaTelefónica announced its collaboration with UNICEF through their Magic Box initiative – a Big Data for Social Good platform which collects real-time data, combining and analysing aggregated and anonymised data from private sector companies. Magic Box was launched in 2014, when it was used to respond to the Ebola crisis in Western Africa, and more recently to the spread of the Zika virus.

UNICEF Demo showing the alerts that are calculated through combining information on number of calls, people's movement, and weather information.
UNICEF Innovation
UNICEF Demo showing the alerts that are calculated through combining information on number of calls, people's movement, and weather information.

Unlike other initiatives, which have mostly focused on pilots to demonstrate the value of Big Data to better understand humanitarian disasters, Magic Box goes one step further. It combines real-time data sourced from the private sector with other existing public data sets relating to climate, GIS (UNICEF’s Geographic Information System), and socioeconomic and epidemiological data. By unlocking the value of this real-time data, UNICEF can optimise its response to public health emergencies and natural disasters – protecting children and saving lives in an increasingly unpredictable world.

By means of an Application Programming Interface (API), companies are able to share their anonymised and aggregated datasets in the Magic Box platform, where, once combined with public data sets, provides insights for emergencies.

At the Mobile World Congress, both parties will be demonstrating the first pilot of this partnership. Telefónica mobile network data from Colombia will be used to show how data can be analysed to improve the management of humanitarian disasters, providing alarms, and supporting critical response and recovery monitoring. The natural disasters include an earthquake, a landslide, and a flood. They were analysed for this first project, using mobile usage data per antenna (e.g. the number of calls, megabytes, and SMS) and mobility data to understand human movement.

“So far we have seen a wide range of pilots which show that Big Data can be a force for good, however, we now need to shift from pilots and ‘one-offs’ to real operative systems which provide a continuous data feed. Data needs to come from both the public and private sector and therefore partnerships like this one are key. This is the only way to have a meaningful impact and bring the power of data to the people who need it most.”

Richard Benjamins, Lead, Telefónica Big Data for Social Good initiative

“Colombia is one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change. The telecommunications sector has a pivotal role to play due to the precision and availability of data which can ultimately save lives. Integrating this agreement between UNICEF and Telefónica, the technology, the data and the collaboration across different sectors in a proactive and innovative way will allow us to enhance our capabilities to respond to emergencies."

Alfonso Gómez, president of Telefónica Colombia

“Magic Box is a way to bring together partners like Telefonica and others from the private sector, who want to use their data as a public social good. We collaborate with them to build a product that allows us to have real-time insights to improve our work for children around the world. To reach the hardest-to-reach children, we need to know where, when and how to act, and we can do this if we have forward-thinking partnerships in place, now.”

Cynthia McCaffrey, Director, Office of Innovation, UNICEF

As well as sharing datasets as part of the agreement, UNICEF’s innovation department will work with Telefónica’s specialist Big Data unit, LUCA, to accelerate the use of Data Science and Data Engineering in developing real-time humanitarian data analytics.

Telefónica joins other companies like Google, Amadeus, and IBM to enable the growth of Big Data for Social Good in line with the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals.



About Telefónica 
Telefónica is one of the largest telecommunications companies in the world by market capitalization and number of customers with a comprehensive offering and quality of connectivity that is delivered over world class fixed, mobile and broadband networks. As a growing company it prides itself on providing a differential experience based both on its corporate values and a public position that defends customer interests.

The company has a significant presence in 21 countries and 350 million accesses around the world. Telefónica has a strong presence in Spain, Europe and Latin America, where the company focuses an important part of its growth strategy.

Telefónica is a 100% listed company, with more than 1.5 million direct shareholders. Its share capital currently comprises 5,037,804,990 ordinary shares traded on the Spanish Stock Market and on those in London, New York, Lima, and Buenos Aires.

About Magic Box
UNICEF Innovation is developing an open-source platform, called Magic Box, which uses real-time information to inform life-saving humanitarian responses to emergency situations. This work is made possible through private sector partnerships and collaborations with Google, Amadeus, IBM, and Telefonica, as well as with other development agencies and government entities such as UN Global Pulse, CDC, PAHO and OCHA.

To partner with UNICEF Office of Innovation visit: