Using Social Media’s Data for Good: Analyzing the Economic Impact of the 2023 Earthquakes in Türkiye and Syria

Published 30 November 2023 / By Dr Emre Eren Korkmaz (COMPAS, Research Affiliate) and Brittney Butler (Data for Good at Meta)

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On February 6, 2023, Turkiye and Syria experienced two earthquakes of 7.5 and 7.8 magnitudes that had profound implications on the community and economy, impacting roughly 15.7 million people. While much has been reported about the direct community and infrastructure damage caused by the earthquakes, less attention has been paid to their economic and social consequences. 

When attempting to understand the full economic impact of the disaster, traditional data sources have proven insufficient. The need for granular, real-time data has been stark. Non-traditional data sources have offered timely, cost-effective, and wide-ranging insights that could complement traditional sources and provide a deeper understanding of the situation on the ground.

A partnership with Data for Good at Meta

The mission of the Data for Good at Meta program is to empower partners with privacy preserving data that strengthens communities and makes progress on social issues. The Data for Good team has been building and sharing tools for crisis response and economic recovery since 2017, and the team’s Business Activity Trends dataset measures how businesses are affected by crisis events through their rate of posting on Facebook. It also measures the aggregate number of public posts on Facebook Business Pages as compared to pre-crisis levels.

To inform the economic recovery from the earthquakes in Turkiye and Syria, researchers at Oxford University, Cambridge University, and Koç University conducted an analysis of economic activity in the aftermath of the earthquake by utilising Business Activity Trends data. Their initial findings were released two weeks after the event.

The researchers found that nearly all economic activity came to a halt after the earthquakes. The team found that public sector institutions, particularly in Turkey, experienced significant declines in activity that could be largely attributed to the closure of schools and a shift to online education, along with the repurposing of educational facilities to accommodate earthquake victims. This effect was noted throughout the end of March, showing that public sector institutions struggled to resume operations even a full month after the crisis.

See Figure 1, to the right of the page. [Business Activity Trends, created by the research team]

The research team also found that the manufacturing industry, which constitutes nearly 8% of Turkey’s economy, was severely impacted. The five provinces most affected by the earthquake were particularly active in this sector and as a result, the Turkish economy is estimated to have lost roughly 10% of its GDP – upwards of $100 billion – as a result of the disaster.

The research team shared their analysis with organisations on the ground including the International Organization for Migration, United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees, United Nations Development Programme, World Food Programme and Red Crescent, as well as the local municipalities of Istanbul, Izmir, Hatay, Kadikoy and others. Non-profit organisations including Habitat for Humanity, ASAM, GIZ and Spark were also in contact with the research team and leveraged the findings for their work. Feedback from these organisations proved that data is crucial to humanitarian efforts both during and after emergencies.

Recommendations and partnerships for the future

The earthquakes caused extensive damage to Turkey’s public infrastructure including the electricity supply, water and sewage systems, and transportation systems, including ports, railways, and roads. Hospitals, schools, police stations, and public offices were also deeply affected. As a result, the disaster severely disrupted access to essential services such as healthcare, water, sanitary, electricity and education. To minimise the impact of earthquakes on public services, more efforts are needed to build earthquake-resistant structures and to develop emergency response plans in advance. Investing in infrastructure is crucial to ensuring resilience to natural disasters and sustaining access to public services in the aftermath.

Collaborations with teams like Data for Good at Meta can help researchers receive valuable insights that help understand and address the complex challenges presented by natural disasters. This granular, real-time data is invaluable in understanding the economic consequences of such events, enabling more effective disaster response and recovery planning.

If you would like to find out more about the research consortium, please contact:

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