Apr 1, 2021

How Data Science and Satellite Images Are Helping One Country Hand Out Cash

In this short film from People Fixing the World from the BBC, Professor Josh Blumenstock explains how researchers from the University of California, Berkeley, have facilitated a high-tech way for the government of Togo to identify people who need financial help in the pandemic and send them emergency cash.

The Berkeley team, which also includes I School Ph.D. student Emily Aiken, has trained a computer algorithm to built poverty maps from surveys and satellite image data. Upon identifying regions of poverty, they used mobile phone data to identify which individuals needed cash. The Berkeley researchers determined who was vulnerable and gave that information to the government without sharing any other personal data.

Individuals apply for aid through a mobile platform, and then, through the charity Give Directly, cash is distributed through the mobile phone as well.

Results of this work have also recently been featured in California Magazine, NPR’s All Things Considered, Berkeley News, and the BBC’s People Fixing the World podcast.

Last updated:

April 2, 2021