Population Density Maps

Our Population Density Maps help nonprofit and multilateral agencies plan vaccination campaigns, respond to natural disasters, and evaluate rural electrification plans. These maps help researchers assess the ways in which climate change and urbanization impact where people live.

Features

Our Population Density Maps help nonprofit and multilateral agencies plan vaccination campaigns, respond to natural disasters, and evaluate rural electrification plans. These maps help researchers assess the ways in which climate change and urbanization impact where people live.

In partnership with the Center for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN) at Columbia University, we use state-of-the-art computer vision techniques to identify buildings from publicly accessible mapping services to create the world's most accurate population datasets. Our maps are available at 30-meter resolution — much more accurate than existing high-resolution maps, which are only available at a resolution of 100 meters.

Training data through neural networks

To map populations, Facebook's Spatial Computing team trains pattern-recognizing algorithms to identify buildings in publicly available satellite images. Using hand-labeled data from diverse areas, these algorithms learn to understand varied landscapes, ensuring extremely accurate modeling anywhere on earth.

Combination with population data

Using building information from Facebook’s analysis, Columbia combines these insights with Census data to generate population estimates, which are then applied to the structures in the satellite imagery. As a final step, the team validates these estimates against more coarse-grained datasets including anonymized household surveys from USAID and the World Bank.

Facebook's high resolution population maps have supported Humanitarian Open Street Map and Missing Maps’ mission of putting the world's most at-risk places on the world…the maps from Facebook ensure we focus our volunteers' time and resources on the places they're most needed, improving the efficacy of our programs.”

Tyler Radford, HumanitarianOpenStreetMap Team

Who uses Population Density Maps

Facebook's high-resolution population density maps have been used by a range of nonprofit and multilateral agencies to plan vaccination campaigns, respond to natural disasters, and assess the feasibility of rural electrification plans. Researchers have also used these layers to analyze trends in urbanization and to assess the impact of climate change on where people live.

Public health institutions

Public health organizations have used these maps to improve the way they reach rural populations with health interventions. For example, in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Mozambique, the Gates Foundation is using Facebook's population maps to improve the way health workers reach households with information about forthcoming vaccine distributions, to procure the right number of vaccines, and to verify the number of children under five to be vaccinated. These maps are also helpful for volunteers distributing bed nets or performing indoor residual spraying for malaria control.

Disaster preparedness and response organizations

Aid organizations have used our settlement layer for disaster preparedness projects, mapping which areas are most likely to be affected by natural disaster and how populations are distributed within those areas.

Rural electrification planners

Rural electrification operators can use our population maps to analyze settlements in urban and rural areas through satellite imagery and prioritize locations for development.

Researchers

Researchers can use the Facebook high resolution settlement layer to help inform development programs that require sub-national population estimates, to understand trends in human mobility, and to accurately quantify urbanization rates.

Methodology

To create our high-resolution maps, we use machine learning techniques to identify buildings from commercially available satellite images. Then we work with our partners at Columbia University to overlay general population estimates based on publicly available census data and other population statistics. The resulting maps are the most detailed and actionable tools available for aid and research organizations.

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Case Studies

In the News

Get Involved

Check out our high resolution population density maps, available for download on the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)’s Humanitarian Data Exchange.

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