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Demographics

How Facebook is Using Machine Learning to Map the World Population

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population map cairo

When it comes to knowing where humans around the world actually live, resources come in varying degrees of accuracy and sophistication.

Heavily urbanized and mature economies generally produce a wealth of up-to-date information on population density and granular demographic data. In rural Africa or fast-growing regions in the developing world, tracking methods cannot always keep up, or in some cases may be non-existent.

This is where new maps, produced by researchers at Facebook, come in. Building upon CIESIN’s Gridded Population of the World project, Facebook is using machine learning models on high-resolution satellite imagery to paint a definitive picture of human settlement around the world. Let’s zoom in.

Connecting the Dots

Will all other details stripped away, human settlement can form some interesting patterns. One of the most compelling examples is Egypt, where 95% of the population lives along the Nile River. Below, we can clearly see where people live, and where they don’t.

View the full-resolution version of this map.

facebook population density egypt map

While it is possible to use a tool like Google Earth to view nearly any location on the globe, the problem is analyzing the imagery at scale. This is where machine learning comes into play.

Finding the People in the Petabytes

High-resolution imagery of the entire globe takes up about 1.5 petabytes of storage, making the task of classifying the data extremely daunting. It’s only very recently that technology was up to the task of correctly identifying buildings within all those images.

To get the results we see today, researchers used process of elimination to discard locations that couldn’t contain a building, then ranked them based on the likelihood they could contain a building.

process of elimination map

Facebook identified structures at scale using a process called weakly supervised learning. After training the model using large batches of photos, then checking over the results, Facebook was able to reach a 99.6% labeling accuracy for positive examples.

Why it Matters

An accurate picture of where people live can be a matter of life and death.

For humanitarian agencies working in Africa, effectively distributing aid or vaccinating populations is still a challenge due to the lack of reliable maps and population density information. Researchers hope that these detailed maps will be used to save lives and improve living conditions in developing regions.

For example, Malawi is one of the world’s least urbanized countries, so finding its 19 million citizens is no easy task for people doing humanitarian work there. These maps clearly show where people live and allow organizations to create accurate population density estimates for specific areas.

rural malawi population pattern map

Visit the project page for a full explanation and to access the full database of country maps.

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Cities

Mapped: The World’s Top 10 Cities in 2035

Cities are heavy hitters in the global economy. Where will the top 10 cities be in 2035—based on GDP, population, and annual growth?

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Mapped: Where Will The Top 10 Cities Be in 2035?

Cities are the engines of the modern economy. Over half of the world now lives in urban areas, and urbanization continues to shape the trajectory of global growth in unprecedented ways.

However, the most important cities of today may be quite different than those leading the charge in the future. This week’s chart looks forward to 2035, using a report by Oxford Economics to forecast the top 10 cities by measures of economic size, population, and GDP growth rate.

Each map is categorized by one of these metrics—and depending on which one you look at, the leaders vary greatly.

Top 10 Cities by Projected GDP

The top 10 cities by gross domestic product (GDP) in 2035 will be fairly widespread. Three cities are expected to be in the U.S.—New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago. The Big Apple’s forecasted $2.5 trillion GDP likely stems from its strong banking and finance sectors.

RankCityCountry2035 GDP
#1New York🇺🇸 United States$2.5T
#2Tokyo🇯🇵 Japan$1.9T
#3Los Angeles🇺🇸 United States$1.5T
#4London🇬🇧 United Kingdom$1.3T
#5Shanghai🇨🇳 China$1.3T
#6Beijing🇨🇳 China$1.1T
#7Paris🇫🇷 France$1.1T
#8Chicago🇺🇸 United States$1.0T
#9Guangzhou🇨🇳 China$0.9T
#10Shenzhen🇨🇳 China$0.9T

Four cities will be found in China, while London, Paris, and Tokyo are set to round out the last three. Interestingly, Tokyo is the #1 city today, with an estimated $1.6 trillion GDP in 2019.

Altogether, these top 10 cities will contribute an impressive $13.5 trillion in GDP by 2035. Clusters of such metropolitan areas are typically considered megaregions—which account for a large share of global economic activity.

Top 10 Cities by Future Population

Next, it’s clear that top cities by population will follow a distinct global distribution. By 2035, the most highly-populated cities will shift towards the East, with seven cities located in Asia.

RankCityCountry2035 Population
#1Jakarta🇮🇩 Indonesia38 million
#2Tokyo🇯🇵 Japan37.8 million
#3Chongqing🇨🇳 China32.2 million
#4Dhaka🇧🇩 Bangladesh31.2 million
#5Shanghai🇨🇳 China25.3 million
#6Karachi🇵🇰 Pakistan24.8 million
#7Kinshasa🇨🇩 DR Congo24.7 million
#8Lagos🇳🇬 Nigeria24.2 million
#9Mexico City🇲🇽 Mexico23.5 million
#10Mumbai🇮🇳 India23.1 million

While Jakarta’s 38 million-strong population is expected to emerge in first place, the city may not retain its status as Indonesia’s capital for much longer. Rising sea levels and poor water infrastructure management mean that Jakarta is rapidly sinking—and the government now plans to pivot the capital to Borneo island.

On the African continent, Kinshasa and Lagos are already among the world’s largest megacities (home to over 10 million people), and will hold top spots by the turn of the century.

Population and demographics can be major assets to a country’s growth. For example, India’s burgeoning working-age demographics will present a unique advantage—and the country is projected to contain several of the fastest growing cities in the coming years.

Top 10 Cities By Estimated Annual GDP Growth

When comparing cities based on their pace of economic growth, there are some clear standouts. Average annual GDP growth across cities is 2.6%, but the top 10 surpass this by a fair amount.

The kicker? All of 2035’s major players will be found in Asia: four of the fastest-growing cities will be in mainland China, another four in India, and the last two in Southeast Asia.

RankCityCountryAnnual Growth
#1Bengaluru🇮🇳 India8.5%
#2Dhaka🇧🇩 Bangladesh7.6%
#3Mumbai🇮🇳 India6.6%
#4Delhi🇮🇳 India6.5%
#5Shenzhen🇨🇳 China5.3%
#6Jakarta🇮🇩 Indonesia5.2%
#7Manila🇵🇭 Philippines5.2%
#8Tianjin🇨🇳 China5.1%
#9Shanghai🇨🇳 China5.0%
#10Chongqing🇨🇳 China4.9%

At #1 by 2035 is Bangalore with an expected 8.5% annual growth forecast—its high-quality talent pool makes the city a breeding ground for tech startups. Jakarta makes another appearance, with its projected 5.2% growth at double the city average.

Shanghai finds its way onto all three lists. The commercial capital hosts the world’s busiest port, and one of China’s two major stock exchanges. These sectors could help boost Shanghai’s annual GDP growth to 5% in 2035.

Looking to the Future

Of course, any number of variables could impact these 2035 projections, from financial recessions and political uncertainty, to rapid urbanization and technological advances.

But one thing’s certain—in the coming decades, cities are where many of these factors will converge and play out.

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Demographics

Visualizing Social Media Use by Generation

Every generation has the same desire for connection, but the way in which we connect over social media differs across age groups and regions.

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Visualizing Social Media Use by Generation

Our world has never been more connected than it is today.

Nearly two-thirds of the world’s population is plugged into the matrix, with over 4.4 billion internet users across multiple device types. We use these devices for work and for play—and social media has altered the way we interact both online and offline.

Today’s infographic from Global Web Index compares key generational and regional differences of social media use based on data from nearly 114,000 internet users, highlighting how pervasive social media has become in our lives.

Note: China is excluded from the usage data regarding specific social networks and apps.

From Age to Age: Social Media by Generation

How does the use of social media vary by generation?

Baby Boomers

Boomers currently rank last in nearly every category and metric when it comes to technology and social media use. This generation didn’t grow up inundated with technology in the way today’s youth are.

However, Boomers are showing the greatest increase in activity on social media platforms. For example, usage of Instagram and WhatsApp is up 59% and 44% respectively for this group since 2016, which is more than double the global average.

Generation X

Also known as the ‘MTV Generation’, the Gen X group was the last generation to grow up before the Internet truly took off. The early years of this group were marked by a burst of new technologies, from wireless phones to personal computers.

On average, Gen Xers spend nearly two hours on social media per day—less than Millennials and Gen Z, but more than Boomers.

Millennials

Perhaps surprisingly, Millennials show a slow down in the time spent on social media. From 2017-2018, screen time for Millennials on social media decreased by one minute, to 2 hours 38 minutes per day. This trend points to Millennials seeking real-life experiences and better engagement from the brands they interact with online, rather than passive scrolling.

Other factors also play a role in this evolution─nearly 50% of Millennials admit that their activity on social media has caused them to overspend to impress their networks.

Generation Z

Gen Z is the first group in history that has never known a world without the Internet. Immersed in the online world since birth, Gen Z surpasses Millennials in daily activity on social media with 2 hours 55 minutes spent per day.

North American, Latin American, and European Generation Z-ers lead in the number of social accounts they’re actively using. Many are also moving away from platforms like Facebook in favor of multimedia-heavy sites such as YouTube and Instagram.

Social Media by the Numbers

Social media sites measure the number of unique users on the platform each month as a metric of success. Below is a snapshot of the five major social media sites shown in today’s graphic and their active user count.

Monthly Active Users (MAU) as of July 2019

  • Facebook: 2.4 billion
  • YouTube: 2 billion
  • WhatsApp: 1.6 billion
  • Instagram: 1 billion
  • Twitter: 330 million

Even more striking is what happens in a social media minute:

  • 41.6 million messages sent over Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp
  • 347,222 people are scrolling Instagram
  • 87,500 people posting to Twitter
  • 4.5 million videos on YouTube being watched

Social Media’s Role in Retail

Social media has evolved from simply keeping us connected to our friends. Users can now access career tools, engage with their favorite companies, stay current with global events, and find love.

Across all regions and generations, social media has propelled e-commerce into the limelight. More than ever before, social media sites are being used for product research, brand engagement, and online purchases. For example, Instagram now offers one-click shop features that allow users to buy what they see immediately, with a simple tap on their screens.

The greatest growth in e-commerce, however, has been the influencer industry. These star-studded internet personalities boast massive online followings from a wide range of demographics—and companies are taking notice.

In 2018, 72% of major brands stated that they were outsourcing a significant portion of their marketing resources to online influencers. Followers feel as though they’re getting a product recommendation from a friend, making them more likely to buy quickly.

Social Media Growth

Despite the rate of social media growth slowing down, social media use is still growing. From 2017 to 2018, the average person increased usage by three minutes per day, while becoming a new user of 0.8 social media accounts.

Social media is a broad, multi-faceted, and complex industry that appeals to a wide range of cultures, age groups, and personalities. While growth in social media activity may be slowing down, a growing global population may mean we’ll see more opportunities to stay connected.

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