Facebook has resumed a project that began in 2016 to create maps with population density. In this case, the technological giant has focused on developing maps that detail the surface of Africa and its uninhabited areas, for which it has counted on the help of Artificial Intelligence. This new map will be added to another 22 that the company had already mapped three years ago.
“The development of high-end maps allows Facebook to define where to invest to win more users.”
To create these maps, Facebook engineers take information from a public map database called Open Street Map. With the data obtained, the engineers train the visualization system of a computer capable of identifying buildings in satellite images. From there, computer scientists can locate the population density of areas of the African continent that had been marked as uninhabited.
The processing of these data involved the revision of 11,000 million images, which was only possible thanks to the new computerized learning process of Facebook and its application with Artificial Intelligence. In addition, the company has had the support of researchers from the Center for International Networks of Earth Sciences, CIESIN, for its acronym in English.
During the next months, Facebook will launch this map for public and free access. The company points out that the creation of these maps will be useful in cases of natural disasters or during vaccination days, so that rescue teams with few resources can identify the areas they must attend with the greatest urgency.
However, despite the humanitarian objective that has been given to this tool, the initial purpose of the company was to use the maps with a commercial benefit. In particular, the development of high-end maps with details on population density allows the company to define where it should invest to gain more users. That is to say, these maps indicate which areas, still disconnected, can be a potential target for the company.
Although the creation of maps presents multiple benefits for isolated regions and humanitarian aid organizations, this tool has generated contrary opinions among users.
On the one hand, some celebrate the triumph of globalization and multiculturalism that comes from a greater connection. However, on the other hand, users fear that the data used to map these maps will fall back into the wrong hands.