Eye in sky en­ables sci­en­tists to gauge global poverty


The Daily News Egypt - - Science -

Over 93 coun­tries world­wide com­mit­ted to achieve the United Na­tion’s Sus­tain­able De­vel­op­ment Goals (SDGs) that we are com­mit­ted to na­tion­ally and in­ter­na­tion­ally.

It can be dif­fi­cult to as­sess global poverty and poor eco­nomic con­di­tions, but with an ‘eye in the sky’, re­searchers are able to give us a very good hint of the liv­ing con­di­tions of pop­u­la­tions in the world’s im­pov­er­ished coun­tries, ac­cord­ing to a new re­search.

The study was con­ducted by a team of re­searchers from Aarhus Uni­ver­sity, Den­mark, and was pub­lished on Mon­day in the Amer­i­can Jour­nal Pro­ceed­ings of the Na­tional Academy of Science (PNAS), tak­ing about two years to be con­ducted.

The UN’s de­vel­op­ment agenda was adopted by the world’s heads of state and gov­ern­ments at a UN Sum­mit in NewYork in 2015.The goals came into force on 1 Jan­uary 2016, and will con­tinue to set a course for fur­ther sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment to ben­e­fit both peo­ple and the planet that we live on un­til 2030.

Find­ings of the study re­veal that in or­der to track the liv­ing con­di­tions in poor na­tions around the world where the forth­com­ing pop­u­la­tion growth is high­est, this will help us to achieve the UN SDGswhich 93 mem­ber coun­tries have com­mit­ted them­selves to.

Re­searchers of the study have dis­cov­ered that high res­o­lu­tion satel­lite data can be used to map eco­nomic liv­ing con­di­tions down to a house­hold level. Based on high res­o­lu­tion satel­lite images, they were en­abled to as­sess the poverty sta­tus at dwelling de­gree in ru­ral ar­eas in de­vel­op­ing coun­tries.

Pro­fes­sor Jens-Chris­tian Sven­ning from the Depart­ment of Bio­science, Aarhus Uni­ver­sity, in­formed Daily News Egypt that in or­der to ef­fec­tively work to­ward so­cio-eco­log­i­cal sus­tain­abil­ity as aimed for with the UN’s SDGs, they have to be able to mon­i­tor progress to­ward them.

“Here, satel­lite-based re­mote sens­ing of­fers in­creas­ingly rich data for do­ing ex­actly that. In the present study, we wanted to test if high­res­o­lu­tion satel­lite im­agery can be used to mon­i­tor so­cioe­co­nomic wealth at the house­hold level in ru­ral land­scapes in the de­vel­op­ing world,” he said.

Sven­ning added that he and his team tested the ap­proach on a land­scape in Kenya for which they have rich ground-col­lected data on the so­cioe­co­nomic con­di­tions of house­holds.

“We found that it is in­deed pos­si­ble to get a good in­di­ca­tion of house­hold wealth from satel­lite im­agery, sug­gest­ing that this source of in­creas­ingly rich and in­creas­ingly free data of­fers ma­jor pos­si­bil­i­ties to mon­i­tor progress in com­bat­ing poverty and so­cioe­co­nomic de­vel­op­ment in gen­eral,” said Sven­ning who heads the re­search group in Aarhus.

Among other things, it re­vealed the size of build­ings and ar­eas of un­cul­ti­vated soil, and the length of the grow­ing sea­son on a num­ber of fam­ily-run farms in an agri­cul­tural area in Kenya.

The images un­cov­ered how peo­ple

Wat­mough in­formed Daily News Egypt that “tra­di­tion­ally, mon­i­tor­ing poverty and de­vel­op­ment in low- and mid­dle-in­come coun­tries such as Kenya, has de­pended on data col­lected from house­hold sur­veys.” He added that these sur­veys are ex­pen­sive to carry out and in­fre­quent. In com­par­i­son, high res­o­lu­tion satel­lite im­agery is rel­a­tively cheap and fre­quently col­lected. Satel­lite im­agery can pro­vide in­for­ma­tion about a land­scape and the way that land is be­ing used and how this is chang­ing over time.

The pa­per ex­am­ines how the in­for­ma­tion seen in high res­o­lu­tion satel­lite im­agery could, in the fu­ture, be used to im­prove how poverty and de­vel­op­ment can be mon­i­tored in ru­ral ar­eas of Kenya. Ac­cord­ing to the lead au­thor of the study, the find­ings of the pa­per should be seen as a proof of con­cept that it is pos­si­ble to use high res­o­lu­tion im­agery to es­ti­mate as­pects of ru­ral well­be­ing. It is also im­por­tant to recog­nise that an ap­proach that con­sid­ers how peo­ple use the land in their re­gion re­sults in bet­ter pre­dic­tions of well­be­ing.

The data avail­able from satel­lites is im­prov­ing, and in­creas­ing all of the time, so in fu­ture it is pos­si­ble that satel­lite images will form a key part of mon­i­tor­ing so­cioe­co­nomic con­di­tions and sup­port­ing the ex­ist­ing data from house­hold sur­veys. “We know that the ap­proach de­scribed in this study will have to be adapt­able though as it will need to re­flect the local con­di­tions, and how peo­ple are us­ing the land,” Wat­mough con­cluded.

On satel­lite images, re­searchers can iden­tify the small­est de­tails in spe­cific ar­eas, in­clud­ing the size of the cot­tages, a de­ci­sive in­di­ca­tor of the liv­ing stan­dard in the area

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