When Facebook first revealed its AI-based population map in 2016, I remember people asking why few African countries were covered, but fast forward to 2019 and the company has unveiled an upgraded version that covers the “majority” of Africa.
The project is part of Facebook’s Connectivity Lab, which is under the Internet.org initiative, and this time, the major objective is to help relief agencies know where to go when providing aid.
For example, in Malawi, the Missing Maps Project used these AI-powered maps to filter out 97% of the terrain that is uninhabited. This helped to coordinate the efforts of 3,000 Red Cross volunteers in Malawi who visited roughly 100,000 houses in just three days to educate people about measles and rubella vaccines
Of course, Facebook’s effort isn’t ‘completely’ altruistic.
According to reports, they also plan to use the map to determine which areas are most likely to need better internet access, and which technologies (such as aerial drones) might work best. In other words, this could also help telecom services get internet access to more people, which also means more Facebook users.
So, can you get access to the maps now?
Well, not yet!
Facebook is partnering with Columbia University to create a free public data set that should be available in the coming months.
What do you think?