Tackling poverty through pictures
“The struggle against poverty is the shared responsibility of all countries….A specific anti-poverty strategy is … one of the basic conditions for ensuring sustainable development.”
Extracts from articles 3.1-3.2, Agenda 21, United Nations Earth Summit, 1992.
Nine and a half million pictures could hold the key to figuring out the best way to help China’s 100 million poorest citizens, and the methodology to analyse this data has been developed here in New Zealand by Professor John Gibson.
Professor Gibson is working with Professor Jacques Poot and Dr Bonggeun Kim on developing an economic model to precisely predict pockets of poverty. Their model integrates household survey and census data with environmental data from high-quality satellite pictures of each of China's 9.6 million square kilometres.
Professor Gibson has pioneered this type of analysis for a much smaller country, Papua New Guinea. In China, each one square kilometre parcel of land has been mapped using satellite imagery three times since 1988, providing what Professor Gibson says is an unparalleled resource for integrating environmental factors with poverty mapping analyses.
To handle the enormous volume of data, the researchers have received funding from the Research and Education Advanced Network New Zealand (REANNZ) to access a high capacity, ultra-high speed computer network.
The project uses the Kiwi Advanced Research and Education Network (KAREN) to link up with experts at Stanford University and the Chinese Academy of Sciences to analyse the high-resolution satellite imagery from China.
There’s huge interest worldwide in research to tackle poverty, and Professor Gibson – who is a member of an expert group advising the United Nations Statistical Division on poverty measurement – believes the project will give New Zealand researchers valuable international exposure.
External funding gratefully acknowledged: REANNZ Capability Build Fund.
DEPARTMENT OF ECONOMICS
WAIKATO MANAGEMENT SCHOOL
POPULATION STUDIES CENTRE
FACULTY OF ARTS AND SOCIAL SCIENCES