Social media giant Facebook is hoping disaster response efforts
will be buoyed by new population maps created through its artificial
Facebook has created new maps of the Asia Pacific with an unprecedented
level of detail about where people are living in an effort to help
authorities better respond to natural disasters and disease outbreaks.
No personal Facebook data has been used to create the maps, which are
aimed primarily at supporting not-for-profit organisations and academics,
but are now available online for all the world to see.
Instead, the social media giant has used its artificial intelligence muscle
to process satellite imagery of the region and identify where residential
properties such as houses stand.
Facebook has combined this information with existing national census data
to glean insights on where people live and what particular demographics are
likely to make up communities.
A census typically breaks populations down into far bigger areas, making it
challenging for authorities to know where to target support when disaster
strikes, Facebook software engineer James Gill says.
"Instead of allocating people uniformly across the census area, we only
allocate people to where there are these buildings and that allows us to
produce these incredibly detailed maps," he told AAP.
The location of more isolated rural properties is also covered.
The maps have been created through Facebook's Data for Good program,
with similar maps released for Africa in April and for Latin America
Public policy research manager for the program Alex Pompe says humanitarian
organisations have already drawn on the new population density data for
their work in Africa.
"In Mozambique and Malawi, UNICEF was using these maps to more accurately
allocate their resources for vaccination campaigns for a variety of inoculation
efforts that were taking place for youth and children under the age of five,"
In Australia, Facebook expects the information will be useful for those
responding to and preparing for natural disasters, particularly as the
effects of climate change are felt.
People have already been drawing on Facebook's technologies to deal with
the floods in Townsville and bushfires, Mr Pompe said.
"Our existing partners have been using some of this data in an early
form to make more informed and efficient operation decisions and their
response to those disasters."
The next step for Facebook will be continuing to refine its technology
to better distinguish various residential dwellings.
The company expects some businesses may also tap into the open licence
data for their own benefits.
"This is a data set that has many use cases that we haven't even imagined
yet," Mr Pompe said.
Facebook's Asia Pacific population maps aimed at helping disaster aid efforts, SBS News https://www.sbs.com.au/news/facebook-s-asia-pacific-population-maps-aimed-at-helping-disaster-aid-efforts
Provided by the IKCEST Disaster Risk Reduction Knowledge Service System