When it comes to understanding the distribution of poverty in a country, experts are often in the dark. Typically, locating and accurately measuring the three billion people globally that live on less than $2.50 a day depends heavily on census data, which in most low-income countries is unavailable or out-of-date.
But a new study published today in The Journal of the Royal Society Interface shows that combining mobile phone data with satellite data can create high-resolution maps in near real-time that could produce a more accurate and on-going picture of where poor people live.
"If we're going to tackle poverty, we need ways of mapping and measuring it," Jessica Steele, research fellow at the University of Southampton and lead author of the new study, told Seeker.
For this study, Steele and colleagues looked at Bangladesh, where almost one third of the country's 157 million residents live below the poverty line.
The researchers collected three main chunks of information: remote sensing data from satellites, call detail records from Grameenphone, the leading telecommunications service provider in Bangladesh, and three national household surveys taken across Bangladesh.