Today’s Solutions: January 21, 2022

When you know where people live, it’s a whole lot easier to provide people with aid. The problem is in Africa, truly detailed population maps are basically non-existent. Now Facebook is creating AI-based ultra-detailed population density maps that cover the “majority” of Africa, helping relief agencies know where to go when providing aid. This isn’t the first time Facebook is making such maps, but it’s the first generating them on a truly massive scale.

To make the map, the project had a neural network classify a whopping 11.5 billion satellite images to find out where people lived based on the presences of buildings in each frame. When combined with census data and some verification, Facebook could identify 110 million home locations within a matter of days, skipping areas they knew were uninhabited. Facebook is already eager to tout success with its population maps in countries like Malawi and Tanzania, where it helped supply vaccinations and more reliable electricity to rural areas. The new data could magnify those efforts and ensure that even the most remote communities get the assistance they need.

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