Satellite images can map poverty

Daytime satellite images, like this one of the border between rich and poor neighborhoods in Nairobi, do a better job of predicting poverty than images taken at night. You can fix the world’s problems only if you know where they are. That’s why tracking poverty in Africa, for example, is critical for the United Nations, which launched a global poverty campaign last year. But gathering the data on the ground can be dangerous, slow, and expensive. Now, a study using satellite images and machine learning reveals an alternative: mapping poverty from space. High-powered cameras on satellites are constantly snapping photos of Earth, and scientists have wondered whether poverty can be detected just by analyzing the images. The first attempts to do that relied on images of the planet at night.…


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