Adjunct Assistant Professor of Epidemiology
My research involves engineering computational tools, designed to explore how the petabytes of data generated about human movements, financial transactions, and communication patterns can be used for social good. In work referred to as Engineering Social Systems, I am coupling this anonymized behavioral data from hundreds of millions of people with salient longitudinal covariates including access to health care, education, and income. Ultimately, my research agenda is focused on generating actionable insights about complex social systems that can improve the lives of the billions of people who generate this data and the societies in which they live.
I currently spend the vast majority of my time as the CEO of Jana. I also hold academic positions as an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Epidemiology at Harvard University and a Research Assistant Professor in Computer Science at Northeastern University. I have previously held positions as a Visiting Assistant Professor at the MIT Media Lab and an Omidyar Fellow at the Santa Fe Institute.
- A. Wesolowski, N. Eagle, A. Tatem, D. Smith, A. Noor, R. Snow, and C. Buckee (2012). “Quantifying the impact of human mobility on malaria”, Science, 338(6104), pp. 267-270. PDF HTML
- N. Eagle, M. Macy, and R. Claxton (2010), “Network Diversity and Economic Development”, Science, 328(5981), pp. 1029-1031. PDF HTML
- N. Eagle, A. Pentland, and D. Lazer (2009), “Inferring Social Network Structure using Mobile Phone Data”, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), 106(36), pp. 15274-15278. PDF HTML
B.S., 1999, Stanford University
M.S., 2001, Stanford University
M.S., 2003, Stanford University
Ph.D., 2005, MIT
In 2009, Ben Olding and I started a company originally named ‘txteagle’ and now called Jana. Jana connects organizations directly with people in emerging markets via mobile phones. We reward people with free mobile airtime as an incentive for taking a particular action, such as completing a market research survey. Our proprietary mobile airtime rewards platform has been integrated into the back-end systems of more than 200 mobile operator partners. This gives Jana the unique ability to instantly compensate 3.48 billion people in 70 local currencies.
Global organizations are using Jana to understand, acquire, and retain emerging market consumers, including the United Nations, the World Bank, the Gates Foundation, Unilever, Danone, General Mills, P&G, Johnson & Johnson, Coca-Cola, Nestle and Microsoft.
In 2009, Eric Horvitz and I created the AAAI Spring Symposium on Artificial Intelligence for Development (AI-D). This is a new community of diverse academics and practitioners who believe that the volume of behavioral data currently being generated, particularly in the world’s most underserved and understudied regions, provides new opportunities for applying artificial intelligence techniques to problems that will aid in the development of societies. I am currently involved in over a dozen AI-D research projects involving data on human health, movement, communication, and financial transactions. These collaborations include optimizing the allocation of malaria eradication resources in Kenya, detecting behavioral anomalies associated with outbreaks of cholera in Rwanda, quantifying the dynamics of slums in Nairobi, uncovering patterns in regional communication data associated with the spread of HIV and contraception norms in the Dominican Republic, and assessing the social impact of previous policy decisions ranging from road construction to the placement of latrines throughout the developing world.
I moved to East Africa in 2006, where I jointly served as a research faculty member at MIT, an Adjunct Professor at the GSTIT in Ethiopia and a Fulbright Lecturer at the University of Nairobi. A large portion of my time had been dedicated to creating an initiative called EPROM (Entrepreneurial Programming and Research on Mobiles). EPROM’s aim has been to disseminate a globally applicable mobile phone programming curriculum while fostering mobile phone-related research and entrepreneurship. To date, the EPROM curriculum is currently being taught within Computer Science departments in ten Sub-Saharan African countries. Thousands of African computer science students have completed these courses and many have formed a variety of mobile phone start-ups based in Nairobi, Kigali, Addis-Ababa, and beyond.
One such entrepreneurial venture is my own, Jana - a company that help global brands quickly cultivate consumer understanding, engagement, and loyalty in emerging markets.
In 2003, my doctoral research under Sandy Pentland introduced the idea of Reality Mining and explored the capability of computers to anticipate human behavior through the use of 100 mobile phones as behavioral sensors, programmed to continually log communication, movement, and proximate phones. The resultant 400,000 hours of behavioral data has been downloaded by thousands of researchers and used in over 100 publications. I am involved in similar studies with subjects ranging from office workers in Helsinki, smokers in New York, teenagers in Kilfi, and male prostitutes in Mtwapa, Kenya. Kate Greene and I have a forthcoming book entitled “Reality Mining: Using Big Data to Engineer a Better World”, published by MIT Press.