Data on populations will be strengthened by new technology and increased processing capacity.

Governments in low-income nations are being helped by research from the University of Southampton to improve their ability to create and use demographic maps, plan for the future, and handle catastrophes. In order to support the creation of thorough population maps and demographic datasets that can assist governments in their efforts to develop fundamental areas such as infrastructure, healthcare, and housing, as well as equip them effectively for disaster relief, World pop at the University is establishing links with a variety of nations around the world. This partnership is between World pop and the non-profit organization Flow minder Foundation. Understanding population numbers and distribution with the buttress of new technology at the local level is essential for national planning, but in nations where there hasn’t been a census or where the data is dispersed—possibly because of conflict, political unpredictability, or poverty—this information is frequently unavailable. For instance, Somalia performed its most recent census between the years of 1985 and 1986.

The researchers explain how satellite imagery, geolocation technology, small area surveys, statistical methods, and computing power can work together to map high-resolution national population estimates, comparable or exceeding the level of detail of those derived from census material, and with the ability to interrogate information down to the local scale. Their findings are published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). Professor Andy Tatem, director of World Pop and a geographer at the University of Southampton, argues that these technologies offer reliable information and affordable alternatives for nations where conducting censuses is nearly impossible. We have previously been able to analyze the probable spread of Ebola in West Africa using this strategy as well as other ones, like the analysis of anonymized mobile phone data to assist in disaster relief planning after the disasters in Nepal and Haiti and prevent the spread of malaria.

Another place where the researchers’ work is having an impact is Afghanistan. The only census the nation has ever had was in 1979. Due to security concerns, a subsequent survey scheduled for 2008 was canceled. Professor Tatem and his team have been remapping the country’s population in collaboration with the Afghan government and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), and they recently gave President Ghani in Kabul a presentation of their findings. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the UK Government’s Department for International Development have given World Pop a $8.3M grant to support its innovative methods for population mapping. The funding supports the launch of the Geo-referenced Infrastructure and Demographic Data for Development (GRID3) program, in collaboration with UNFPA and Columbia University, with the goal of assisting governments in low-income countries to create and use spatially detailed data on infrastructure and population. The GRID3 program, which aims to inspire more nations to participate in their research, was most recently introduced on March 7 at the United Nations headquarters in New York.

In northern Nigeria, a vaccination campaign aimed at eliminating polio ran out of doses in some places because they were relying on obsolete and incorrect census data, according to Professor Tatem, who wants to build on their prior successes. In order to produce more accurate estimates that are now the foundation for vaccine planning, we attempted to integrate satellite mapping of communities with ground assessments. We can assist some of the individuals in the world who are most in need and who are now uncounted if we can replicate comparable accomplishments in several different nations. The work done for the paper The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has provided funding (OPP1134076, OPP1182408) to support spatially disaggregated population estimates in the absence of national population and housing census data. Andrew J. Tatem is supported by money from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Clinton Health Access Initiative, the National Institutes of Health, a Welcome Trust Sustaining Health Grant (106866/Z/15/Z), and money from DFID and the Welcome Trust (204613/Z/16/Z).

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