The digital economy is transforming how data is collected, processed and used for evidence-based decisions to monitor and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. Promising new methods that combine traditional household survey data with non-traditional data sources (such as mobile phone data, satellite data and text data) are creating opportunities to map poverty at a higher resolution and scale. Nonetheless, significant technical, practical and ethical challenges still hamper the operationalization of these methods.
Combinatorial innovation is driving innovation in satellite-based economic measurements at unprecedented resolution, frequency and scale. Increasing availability of satellite data and rapid advancements in machine learning methods are enabling a better understanding into the fundamental forces shaping economic development.
Why satellite data innovations matter
The desire of human beings to “think spatially” to understand how people and objects are organized in space has not changed much since Eratosthenes — the Greek astronomer best known as the “father of Geography” — first used the term “Geographika” around 250 BC. Centuries later, our understanding of economic geography is being propelled forward by new data and new capabilities to rapidly process, analyze and convert these vast data flows into meaningful and near real-time information
It’s amazing to see what technology can do these days! Satellites provide daily images of almost every location on earth, and computers can be trained to process massive amounts of data generated from them to produce insightful analysis/information. This is just one of the demonstrations of artificial intelligence (AI). AI can go beyond just reading images captured from space, it can help improve lives overall.
Many of today’s increasingly complex development challenges, from rapid urban expansion to climate change, disaster resilience, and social inclusion, are intimately tied to land and the way it is used. Addressing these challenges while also ensuring individuals and communities are able to make full use of their land depends on consistent, reliable, and accessible identification of land rights.