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Geospatial Technology

Innovations in satellite measurements for development

Ran Goldblatt's picture

Bottom line

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.

The Global Urban Footprint: A map of nearly every human settlement on Earth

Thomas Esch's picture


Urbanization is increasingly central to the global development process, but until recently, basic spatial information on the world’s urban areas has been unavailable, inconsistent, or unreliable. The lack of consistent data on the world’s cities makes it hard to understand the overall impact of urbanization. However, innovations in geospatial mapping are now helping to provide one major piece of the puzzle:maps of practically all built-up areas around the world are available thanks to new uses of satellite data.
 
Scientists at the German Aerospace Center (DLR) have succeeded in using a newly developed method to map the world’s built spaces at an unprecedented spatial resolution, resulting in the ‘Global Urban Footprint’ (GUF), a global map of human settlements at a spatial resolution of 12 meters per grid cell (aggregated to 75m for public use).
 
The German radar satellites TerraSAR X and TanDEM X acquired over 180,000 images between 2010 and 2013, which were processed, together with additional data such as digital terrain models, to produce the Global Urban Footprint. In total, the researchers processed over 20 million datasets with a combined volume of more than 320 terabytes.

WorldPop's high-resolution mapping: the first ingredient for success in development projects

Tatiana Peralta Quiros's picture
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Modeled 2012 population in Guatemala at a spatial resolution of 100 m2
People are at the center of all development work: whether we act to prevent and address disasters, protect vulnerable communities, finance projects in infrastructure, education or health, our ultimate goal is always to serve people. Being able to identify, understand and locate beneficiaries as accurately as possible is an essential first step in that process, and the only way to make sure we provide services to those who need it most with maximum impact.

Inside the World Bank, the number of people passionate about using spatial data for development speaks to the relevance of spatial datasets in supporting critical decision making. In an effort to use spatial data more strategically, we recently conducted an informal poll among several Bank units and some partner institutions to find out what types of spatial data are most relevant to development professionals.

This survey found that the spatial distribution of the population was a key data layer needed by Bank staff. The results of the survey showed that that while national level data are useful, subnational detail on administrative boundaries, trade & transport infrastructure, population distribution and socio-economic data down to the city level are just as critical to the majority of respondents.

Tracking Urbanization: How big data can drive policies to make cities work for the poor

Axel van Trotsenburg's picture

Every minute, dozens of people in East Asia move from the countryside to the city.
The massive population shift is creating some of the world’s biggest mega-cities including Tokyo, Shanghai, Jakarta, Seoul and Manila, as well as hundreds of medium and smaller urban areas.

This transformation touches on every aspect of life and livelihoods, from access to clean water to high-speed trains that transport millions of people in and out of cities during rush hour each weekday.

Tracking Urbanization: How big data can drive policies to make cities work for the poor

Axel van Trotsenburg's picture
 Measuring a Decade of Spatial Growth

Every minute, dozens of people in East Asia move from the countryside to the city.

The massive population shift is creating some of the world’s biggest mega-cities including Tokyo, Shanghai, Jakarta, Seoul and Manila, as well as hundreds of medium and smaller urban areas.

Media (R)evolutions: What is the Economic Impact of Geo Services?

Roxanne Bauer's picture

New developments and curiosities from a changing global media landscape: People, Spaces, Deliberation brings trends and events to your attention that illustrate that tomorrow's media environment will look very different from today's, and will have little resemblance to yesterday's.

In our everyday lives, geospatial science and technology services, such as digital mapping, GPS, and other location-based services, are changing the way we operate. These services help us navigate the world, saving time, facilitating our entertainment needs and widening the breadth of markets. These technologies also generate huge amounts of economic activity in the form of research and development, programming and cost savings.

A recent study by economic consultancy firm Oxera, on behalf of Google, illustrates how big the industry has become. Internationally, the firm states, the geo services industry is valued between $150-$270 billion per year and pays around $90 billion in wages.