Population Mapping in Informal Settlements with High-Resolution Satellite Imagery and Equitable Ground-Truth

17 Sep 2020  ·  Konstantin Klemmer, Godwin Yeboah, João Porto de Albuquerque, Stephen A Jarvis ·

We propose a generalizable framework for the population estimation of dense, informal settlements in low-income urban areas--so called 'slums'--using high-resolution satellite imagery. Precise population estimates are a crucial factor for efficient resource allocations by government authorities and NGO's, for instance in medical emergencies. We utilize equitable ground-truth data, which is gathered in collaboration with local communities: Through training and community mapping, the local population contributes their unique domain knowledge, while also maintaining agency over their data. This practice allows us to avoid carrying forward potential biases into the modeling pipeline, which might arise from a less rigorous ground-truthing approach. We contextualize our approach in respect to the ongoing discussion within the machine learning community, aiming to make real-world machine learning applications more inclusive, fair and accountable. Because of the resource intensive ground-truth generation process, our training data is limited. We propose a gridded population estimation model, enabling flexible and customizable spatial resolutions. We test our pipeline on three experimental site in Nigeria, utilizing pre-trained and fine-tune vision networks to overcome data sparsity. Our findings highlight the difficulties of transferring common benchmark models to real-world tasks. We discuss this and propose steps forward.

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