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Digital demography: a new scientific study shows how Facebook Ads may serve as a tool to measure the urban-rural divide

In the global move toward urbanization, making sure the people remaining in rural areas are not left behind in terms of development and policy considerations is a priority for governments worldwide. But disadvantages often start from the traditional study and measurement of these populations, making difficult to motivate appropriate policies.

In a new study that was accepted as a contributed paper at The Web Conference 2020 in the Web and Society Track, an international team of scientists including ISI Researchers Yelena Mejova, Michele Tizzoni and Kyriaki Kalimeri examines the usefulness of the Facebook Advertising platform (a digital "census" of over two billions of users) in tracking important statistics and in measuring potential rural-urban inequalities.

Scientists focus on Italy, a country where about 30% of the population lives in rural areas, extending the analysis to Facebook-specific user "interests" and behaviors, in order to provide further insights. Also visually presented in an interactive map developed by ISI Researcher Marco Quaggiotto, the findings of the study provide a thorough examination of the stability and coverage of Facebook Advertising data and illustrate the necessity of improving existing tools and methodologies to include under-represented populations in digital demographic studies.

“Facebook Ads as a Demographic Tool to Measure the Urban-Rural Divide”, Daniele Rama, Yelena Mejova, Michele Tizzoni, Kyriaki Kalimeri, Ingmar Weber,, 26 february 2020. Link: Facebook Ads as a Demographic Tool to Measure the Urban-Rural Divide
The Facebook Map of Italy