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Central Place and Central Flow Theory are geographic principles explaining why and how cities develop across large regional spaces. Central Place Theory postulates that cities self-organize into a spatial hierarchy were small numbers of very large ‘Central Places’ support numerous surrounding and less developed ‘Low Places’, while ‘Middle Places’ develop at the periphery of where Central Places carry spatial influence. Central Flow Theory is a comple- mentary notion that explains the cooperative development of cities through joint information sharing. Both theories are often discussed, with multiple regional development and economic models built upon their tenents. However, it is very difficult to quantify the degree to which Central Place and Central Flow Theory explains the development and positions of cities in a region, particularly in developing countries where socioeconomic data is difficult to collect. To facilitate these measurements, this paper presents a way to operationalize Central Place and Central Flow Theory using mobile phone data collected across a region. It defines a set of mobile phone data attributes that are related to basic facets of the two theories, and demonstrates how their measurements speak to the degree to which the theories hold in the region the mobile phone data covers. The theory is then applied in a case study where promising locations for economic investment in a developing nation are identified.
This is a preprint submission to PeerJ Computer Science.