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Facebook’s AI team maps the whole population of Africa

A new map of nearly all of Africa shows exactly where the continent’s 1.3 billion people live down to the meter, which could help everyone from local governments to aid organizations. The map joins others like it from Facebook created by running satellite imagery through a machine learning model.
It’s not exactly that there was some mystery about where people live, but the degree of precision matters. You may know that a million people live in a given region, and that about half are in the bigger city and another quarter in assorted towns. But that leaves hundreds of thousands only accounted for in the vaguest way.
Fortunately you can always inspect satellite imagery and pick out the spots where small villages and isolated houses and communities are. The only problem is that Africa is big. Really big. Manually labeling the satellite imagery even from a single mid-sized country like Gabon or Malawi would take a huge amount of time and effort. And for many applications of the data, such as coordinating the response to a natural disaster or distributing vaccinations, time lost is lives lost.
Better to get it all done at once then, right? That’s the idea behind Facebook’s Population Density Maps project, which had already mapped several countries over the last couple years before the decision was made to take on the entire African continent.
Facebook’s AI team maps the whole population of Africa
Zoom in and you can see the difference between the new and old maps. It’s pretty significant.
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