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Turning the digital divide into a digital bridge – Source

What do building materials have to do with helping to address economic inequality? Surprisingly, quite a lot. During the pandemic, as governments around the world moved quickly to provide much-needed financial assistance to its citizens, the West African country of Togo faced a challenge: how to identify its most economically vulnerable citizens and get money into their hands. 

In partnership with a U.S.-based charitable organization called GiveDirectly, the Togolese government used an AI algorithm that analyzed satellite image data to target pockets of poverty in the country. “You can use different kinds of proxies for income level, like the types of roofing materials that are used,” says Robert Opp, chief digital officer at the United Nations Development Programme. For example, villages where homes predominately have thatched roofs are more likely to be economically disadvantaged compared with villages with metal roofs.

The project in Togo helped the government target its…

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