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The fight against poverty is getting help from a new direction: up.
Satellite imagery is helping researchers map areas of extreme poverty. It may help officials identify faster and more accurately when development policies and programs are working, and when they aren’t.
Eliminating extreme poverty by 2030 is the first of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals adopted by the United Nations in 2015.
Experts usually measure poverty by using census data and household surveys. But these tools are expensive, time-consuming and labor-intensive. Countries typically do them only once every several years.
On the other hand, satellites map the entire surface of the globe at high resolution every several days. The imagery is getting better and cheaper as a growing number of public and private satellite networks go into service.
What satellites see
Researchers have used the brightness of lights in nighttime photos to estimate a region’s economic activity. Others have applied machine learning to identify richer and poorer villages from satellite imagery. Another group sorted wealthy and impoverished villages and neighborhoods based on building density and vegetation cover.
A new study takes the most detailed look to date. Within a single village, it distinguished the poorest individual households from their wealthier neighbors with 62 percent accuracy.
The study focuses on Sauri, a village in rural Kenya that was part of the Millennium Villages Project, a large-scale poverty alleviation experiment. Detailed information on each household’s income and assets was collected in 2005.
In satellite images of the village, researchers measured the size of each dwelling and studied the agricultural land surrounding it.
Not surprisingly, smaller homes generally housed poorer people.
Interestingly, the researchers also found that poorer households tended to have more bare farm fields in September. In this part of Kenya, that usually means farmers are preparing the land for a second crop.
That’s a risky undertaking, said University of Edinburgh geographer and study lead author Gary Watmough, because the late-season rains fail up to half the time in this region.
“Generally, [late-season planting] is only done by the poorer households because it’s a necessity,” he said. “They either don’t have enough land or they need to have that insurance, just in case something else goes wrong.”
Satellite imagery also found poorer households’ fields were growing crops for shorter periods of time.
“When we looked back into our field data, we could see that often poorer households were actually not planting their crops in their own fields as early as others,” Watmough said. “That was because they were contracting themselves out to plant other, wealthier households’ crops first.”
The money they earned went toward buying seeds. But that meant their own crops had less time to grow.
Exciting and a little scary
The study is a big step forward, demonstrating “the potential for satellite data to distinguish between the wealth of you and your neighbor,” said World Bank economist David Newhouse, who was not involved with the research. “Which is scary, a little bit, but also somewhat exciting.”
He suggested that privacy concerns would need to be addressed before it could be scaled up.
Also, the markers of poverty found in this area will not be the same everywhere. The approach would need to be tailored to different locations. And the system’s accuracy — 62 percent — is not great on its own.
“I think the science is pretty far ahead of the practical feasibility,” Newhouse said.
It’s probably best not to rely solely on satellite data, experts say. The charity GiveDirectly used satellite images to target donations to people in villages with a high proportion of thatched roofs. These villages were considered worse off than those with more metal roofs.
But people figured it out. Some claimed to live in thatched-roof structures next to their metal-roofed houses in order to qualify for donations.
“This is really a way to use the data, but it’s also an example of how people can quickly game it,” said remote sensing expert Damien Jacques. GiveDirectly has since changed its methods.
There’s power, however, in combining satellite data and on-the-ground surveys.
“Using the two types of data, one that is cheap to collect and very frequently available to complement traditional data that are expensive to collect and not frequent, you can get the best of the two,” Jacques said.
And remote sensing data on its own can be helpful in places surveyors can’t go, such as Yemen or North Korea, or in the wake of disasters.
But it’s not clear that changes in poverty are visible from space. That’s something Watmough and colleagues will be investigating. They have survey data from Sauri from 2005 and 2008. The next step is to look for differences in the imagery.
“Nobody has ever looked at how poverty has changed over a time period and looked at how a satellite image has changed over that same time period,” he said. (VOA)
Actor and environmental activist, Dia Mirza, who is also the National Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) was showstopper for Indian designers Abraham & Thakore at the recently held LFW X FDCI event. The designer duo who are pioneers of slow fashion and sustainability in the Indian fashion landscape showcased a timeless sustainable collection.
IANSlife spoke with Mirza on sustainable choices when it comes to fashion.
Q: Did you enjoy the on-ground fashion event and the energy that came with the physical show and appearance?
A: Yes absolutely. It was just so refreshing and wonderful to finally be back from a virtual audience. Last year we did a digital show and the energy was just not there, this is an interactive experience and we draw so much from real people.
Q: The outfit that was chosen for you, how did it complement your style?
A: It's a garment that I think involves and is reflective of what I stand for, I deeply care about sustainability and I love the fact that the garment has been made with repurposed material, used and created with a hundred per cent post-consumer bottles, and made by the waste generated from the pieces of fabric that we discard while creating other garments. So it was a very special garment that really and truly celebrated repurposing and reusing and upcycling.
IANSlife spoke with Mirza on sustainable choices when it comes to fashion. | Wikimedia Commons
Q: In the world of fashion celebrity collaborations are replacing celebrity muses, what are your thoughts on that?
A: I think it's wonderful because you know, celebrities have interesting sensibility and you know designers and celebrities who care and have a similar value system and ethos work really well together. I have such wonderful partnerships with people, who have worked with me over the years. I haven't created a line with any of them yet, but I think it would be a lot of fun.
Q: How do you support sustainable fashion?
A: I think it's very exciting for India that we have so many more young upcoming and exciting designers, who make absolutely fantastic sustainable collections. Abraham & Thakore and the kind of work they've done over the years is fabulous, but what's even more important is the fact that they're empowering local craftsmen and artisans, creating livelihood support.
Q: A book, a movie, the gym, or a night out; your perfect way to unwind?
A: It really depends, but if I had to choose one, I would choose movies because I love cinema.
Q: What is an experience in your life that you're waiting to have?
A: Trekking up Machu Picchu.
(Article originally published on IANS life) (IANS/ MBI)
Keywords: indian, sustainability, designers, sustainable,
In a step towards digitisation of the system, Delhi Transport Department will soon issue QR based Smart cards for driving licenses (DLs) and registration certificates (RCs).
As per a statement, the new driving licence will have an advanced microchip with features like Quick Response (QR) code and Near Field Communication (NFC). The new RC will have the owner's name printed on the front while the microchip and the QR code would be embedded at the back of the card.
The cards earlier had embedded chips, but chip reader machines were not available in the required quantity with both the Delhi Traffic Police and the Enforcement Wing of the Transport Department. Moreover, chips were designed and implemented by the states concerned, which resulted in difficulties in reading the chip and retrieving information, especially in case of defaulters.
"Now with the QR based smart card, this issue is resolved. This will enable unification in linking and validating one's information to smart cards with Sarathi and Vahan, the two web-based databases of all driving licenses and vehicle registrations," the release added.
The QR is also being implemented nationwide, the QR code reader is easily procurable and will do away with the requirement of any manual intervention altogether. The new cards will also allow two specific materials for their card manufacturing -- PolyVinyl Chloride or PVC, or PolyCarbonate which is slightly more expensive but more durable. (Card Size - 85.6mm x 54.02 mm; Thickness minimum 0.7 mm)
An October 2018 notification of the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) had made changes to the Driving License and Registration Certificate. The new Smart card based DL and RC, will have chip based/ QR code based recognition system. At the same time, documents such as driving license or registration certificates in electronic formats on DigiLockers and mParivahan were also made valid in place of physical documents and treated at par with original documents.
The QR code also has an added advantage of acting as a safety feature on the smart card. The department will be able to retain records and penalties of the DL holder for up to 10 years on the VAHAN database as soon as a driver/ owner's Smart card is confiscated. The new DLs will also help the government in maintaining records of differently-abled drivers, any modifications made to the vehicles, emission standards and the person's declaration to donate organs. (IANS/JB)
Keywords: Delhi, Driving License, Registration License, Digitisation.
LONDON — A work by British street artist Banksy that sensationally shredded itself just after it sold at auction three years ago fetched almost 18.6 million pounds ($25.4 million) on Thursday — a record for the artist, and close to 20 times its pre-shredded price.
"Love is in the Bin" was offered by Sotheby's in London, with a presale estimate of 4 million pounds to 6 million pounds ($5.5 million to $8.2 million).
After a 10-minute bidding war involving nine bidders in the saleroom, online and by phone, it sold for three times the high estimate to an undisclosed buyer. The sale price of 18,582,000 pounds ($25,383,941) includes an auction-house fee known as a buyer's premium.
The piece consists of a half-shredded canvas in an ornate frame bearing a spray-painted image of a girl reaching for a heart-shaped red balloon.
When it last sold at Sotheby's in October 2018, the piece was known as "Girl With Balloon." Just as an anonymous female European buyer made the winning bid — for 1 million pounds ($1.4 million) — a hidden shredder embedded in the frame by Banksy whirred to life, leaving half the canvas hanging from the frame in strips.
Sotheby's received some criticism at the time for failing to spot the hidden shredder. But the 2018 buyer decided to go through with the purchase, a decision that was vindicated on Thursday as the work's price soared. Image source: voa
Sotheby's received some criticism at the time for failing to spot the hidden shredder. But the 2018 buyer decided to go through with the purchase, a decision that was vindicated on Thursday as the work's price soared.
The work quickly became one of Banksy's most famous, and Sotheby's sent it on tour to cities including New York and Hong Kong before Thursday's auction.
Auctioneer Oliver Barker joked that he was terrified to bring down the hammer to end Thursday's sale. There were jitters among Sotheby's staff to the last that Banksy had another surprise planned.
Alex Branczik, Sotheby's chairman of modern and contemporary art, called the shredding "one of the most ingenious moments of performance art this century."
Banksy, who has never confirmed his full identity, began his career spray-painting buildings in Bristol, England, and has become one of the world's best-known artists. His mischievous and often satirical images include two male police officers kissing, armed riot police with yellow smiley faces and a chimpanzee with a sign bearing the words, "Laugh now, but one day I'll be in charge."
Several of his works have sold for multiple millions at auction. In March, a Banksy mural honoring Britain's health workers, first painted on a hospital wall, sold for 16.8 million pounds ($23.2 million) at a Christie's auction, until Thursday a record for the artist.
"Girl With Balloon" was originally stenciled on a wall in east London and has been endlessly reproduced, becoming one of Banksy's best-known images. (VOA/RN)
Keywords: Banksy, Artwork, Auction, Girl With Balloon, Sotheby