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Facebook artificial intelligence researchers create the world’s most detailed population density maps of Africa

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Facebook is working closely with key non-profit and research partners to use artificial intelligence (AI) and big data to address large-scale social, health and infrastructure challenges in sub Saharan Africa. These efforts range from rural electrification in Tanzania to vaccinating people in remote corners of Malawi.

Facebook is applying the processing muscle of its compute power, its extensive data science skills and its expertise in AI and machine learning to create the world’s most detailed and accurate maps of local populations. Facebook also partners with Columbia University’s Center for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN ) to ensure that this effort leverages the best available administrative data for all countries involved.

The Boston-based Facebook team uses advanced computer vision and machine learning to combine satellite imagery from Digital Globe with public census data and other sources to create detailed population density maps of Africa. Using Facebook’s machine learning capabilities, Facebook started developing population density maps to provide better tools to support connectivity efforts around the world. No Facebook data has been or will be used in the project and the census and satellite data used contain no personally identifiable information.

High-resolution satellite imagery already exists for much of the world. However, prior to Facebook’s mapping project, it would have required countless hours for volunteers to comb through millions of square miles of pictures to identify which contained a tiny town or remote village.

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The Facebook team used AI to solve that problem, efficiently crunching through data at a petabyte scale. For Africa alone, for example, the computer vision system examined 11.5 billion individual images to determine whether they contained a building. The team found approximately 110 million buildings in just a few days.

“Having started my career at USAID working on malaria control, I have witnessed first-hand the critical role that accurate data plays in the effectiveness of humanitarian efforts,” says Laura McGorman, a public policy manager at Facebook. “What’s exciting about projects like these that they provide an opportunity for our company to contribute to these efforts through our expertise in data and machine learning.”

In Malawi, the Missing Maps Project used these AI-powered maps to filter out the 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

“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,” says Tyler Radford, executive director of the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team, which is part of the Missing Maps Project.

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In addition to assisting the Red Cross and Missing Maps Project in Malawi, the maps have been used by aid groups like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the World Bank, and Humanitarian OpenStreetMap. In Tanzania, Facebook’s AI-powered maps helped kick-start efforts to bring renewable electrification to rural areas.

To understand which locations would benefit most from decentralized energy solutions, the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team collaborated with the Reiner Lemoine Institut and Integration Environment and Energy to combine Facebook’s population maps with detailed data on settlement locations and structures from OpenStreetMap.

Humanitarian OpenStreetMap team personnel then travelled to villages identified as high priority and conducted surveys to understand the populations’ electricity needs. The results of these surveys were provided to agencies involved in rural electrification, helping mini-grid operators choose the most appropriate locations to begin the work.

The Facebook population density maps project now aims to keep adding new continents and countries.

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Renewable Energy Is Now The Cheapest Option – Even Without Subsidies | By James Ellsmoor

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IN recent years, the world has marched towards renewable energy. According to a new report by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), unsubsidized renewable energy is now most frequently the cheapest source of energy generation . The report finds that the cost of installation and maintenance of renewables, which was an important stumbling block to mass adoption, continues on a downward trajectory.

Adding to existing efforts made by governments and businesses, these lower costs are expected to propel the mass adoption of renewables even further. The report further touches on the importance of renewables in sustainable development and the need for governments to help achieve the climate goals of the Paris Agreement, coming just months before the United Nations’ Climate Action Summit being held in Abu Dhabi in September this year.

Among other findings the IRENA report highlights that:

  • Onshore wind and solar PV power are now, frequently, less expensive than any fossil-fuel option, without financial assistance.
  • New solar and wind installations will increasingly undercut even the operating-only costs of existing coal-fired plants.
  • Low and falling technology costs make renewables the competitive backbone of energy decarbonization – a crucial climate goal.
  • Cost forecasts for solar PV and onshore wind continue to be revised as new data emerges, with renewables consistently beating earlier expectations.
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Further data from REN21′s Renewable Global Status Report show that over one fifth of global electrical power production is  now generated from renewables.

Growing Environmental Concerns

The detrimental impact of climate change, including more intense heat waves, rising sea levels, and loss of sea ice, is rapidly becoming more apparent across the world. These alarming trends are projected to worsen at a temperature rise of 2°C above pre-industrial levels according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

As the data depicts, ridding the world of fossil fuels and eliminating the impact of climate change relies on championing the adoption of renewables, a roadmap that requires a concerted effort from businesses, governments, and individuals. Sustainable energy continues to be a key priority for the United Nations, which includes energy in its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDG 7 champions renewable energy adoption for the entire world, requiring governments to “ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy for all”.

The Reducing Cost Of Renewables

For many years, financing entities perceived renewables as risky because of high cost, leading to high lending rates for individuals and businesses that need funding for renewable power generation. As the IRENA report depicts, this trend has been on the decline since the early 2000s. The worldwide weighted average cost of electricity from solar power concentration fell by 26%, that of bioenergy reduced by 14%, solar photovoltaics, geothermal, onshore, as well as offshore wind, fell by 14%, and hydropower by 12%.

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Connecting The Dots

These new statistics demonstrate that using renewable energy is increasingly cost-effective compared to other sources, even when renewables must compete with the heavily-subsidized fossil fuel industry . Promising signs in the IRENA report show that more an increasing number of corporates are entering the renewable energy industry as the number of Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) rise, meanwhile more than 10 million people are now employed in the global renewable energy industry.

 

Culled from Forbes

 

 

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Facebook Celebrates One Year of NG_Hub

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Celebrating exactly a year to the day since the doors of NG_Hub opened in Lagos, and Facebook further cemented its ambitions to train users across Nigeria in digital skills, Facebook released an infographic highlighting key milestones over the past year

 

Created as part of Facebook’s ongoing commitment and investment in growing the start-up ecosystem, and in partnership with CcHub, NG_Hub is a multi-faceted space which connects and bring together developers, start-up’s and the wider community to collaborate, learn and exchange ideas. With a number of expert training and events with partners across Nigeria, undertaking in the hub and externally, the aim is to equip individuals and businesses to grow.

Some highlights over the past year includes:

  • Trained over 50,800 SMBs in digital skills across 20 states in Nigeria
  • Delivered 526 events with over 11,490 attendees at NG_Hub, including programmes such as AR/VR meetups, FbStart Accelerator Programme, Facebook Community Leaders Community meetings (CLCs), Developer Circle gatherings etc.
  • Directly supported businesses in 11 different industries from agriculture, through to catering, education and fashion

Speaking of its one year anniversary, Adaora Ikenze, Head of Public Policy, West and Central Africa, said: “I’m proud of the incredible impact that NG_Hub has had in its first year, and continues to have on the lives of young Nigerians. We remain committed in deepening our engagement, increasing skills development and supporting the next set of innovators, tech entrepreneurs, start-ups, in our collective bid to change the face of technology and grow the economy.”

Commenting on the partnership Bosun Tijani, Founder/CEO of CcHub, added: “We’re glad about the tremendous impact Facebook’s investment in NG_HUB has had in such a short period and the ecosystem is already seeing the fruits of this commitment. We’re committed to working with Facebook to position NG_HUB as a major platform that drives smart application of technology innovation for economic prosperity across the region and beyond.”   

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New access to Premium Local TV channels enabled via satellite

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Nigeria’s latest free-to-air (FTA) local channel bouquet, “PREMIUM.FREE”, has enabled local television broadcast audiences access to 13 new premium channels which are custom-made for African viewers. These include multinational language channels like Cinema Hausa, and popular African lifestyle channels such as True African.

Delivered via SES satellites, this innovative channel bouquet is supplied by AfricaXP, the leading independent African network, which is well-known for its compelling Nollywood catalogue and longstanding partnerships with prominent West African producers.

CEO of AfricaXP, Craig Kelly, says that working with SES has enabled PREMIUM.FREE to achieve the maximum possible reach in Nigeria. “We are confident that localization, coupled with our fresh international rights will provide the kind of content blend that modern West African audiences demand. Transmitted free-to-air via satellite, this is obviously a great offer at a price point that can’t be beaten.”

It is this blend of premium African programming with top-flight international content across a diverse range of themes from sports to movies, telenovelas, kids, factual, reality and lifestyle programming, which really sets PREMIUM.FREE apart from other channel bouquet offerings on the market.

SES, the world’s leading satellite operator with over 70 satellites, reaches over 9 million Direct-to-Home households across West Africa from its orbital position of 28.2 degrees East. Those households with existing FTA set-top boxes (STBs) will be able to start watching the new channels on their existing STBs for free.

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“The Nigerian FTA market in particular offers great opportunities for growth, and we are proud to have engaged with PREMIUM.FREE to deliver a differentiated content package for Nigeria and offer more choice for viewers,” says Clint Brown, Vice President of Sales and Market Development, Africa for SES Video.

“New initiatives like this, which focus on delivering local and international content that is attractive for the end-consumer and is offered in high picture quality, will further develop consumer choice in Nigeria,” Brown concludes.

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