15 August 2009


Marginal Revolution picked up on a clever idea by some economists to measure economic growth in places where statistics are unreliable by looking at satellite images of light at night. If any donors are listening, this could be a great way of looking at the economy in Southern Sudan, where we have very few statistics.

It also got me thinking, couldn't we also measure population by satellite? The Census results have been heavily disputed here for political reasons. Surely an alternative estimate could be gained by just counting the number of buildings on Google Maps and multiplying by an estimate of average household size? Has anyone tried this anywhere before?


OMW said...

Sounds like a clever idea - but is it any cheaper than traditional survey methods?

Lee said...

Are you kidding? Traditional survey methods cost an absolute fortune, especially in a place like Southern Sudan where half of the roads are impassable so you end up chartering planes to fly teams of enumerators around the country. This would involve printing off a bunch of maps and having a few people spend a few weeks poring over them.

sarah said...

That's pretty much the method we used for some of the cases in this project, though on a smaller scale: http://shr.aaas.org/geotech/

It was farily tedious, but maybe worthwhile if there are no other good options.

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