Led by the University of Southampton, a team of researches have launched an online project, WorldPop, to map detailed population information of countries all over the globe.

With funding coming from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the website aims to provide open access to global demographic data which can be used to help combat challenges such as poverty, public health, food security and sustainable urban development. It combines country-specific data from national statistic services to construct detailed population distribution maps. Satellite imagery is also used to provide information on density, land cover and transportation networks.

“Our maps and data are helping charities, policy-makers, governments and researchers to make decisions which affect the quality of people’s lives. These could be as diverse as predicting the spread of infectious diseases, planning the development of transport systems or distributing vital aid to disaster zones,” said geographer at Southampton Dr. Andy Tatem, leader of the project.  “For example, in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan, which struck the Philippines with devastating effect, international organizations were able to download information about population density from our website to help with estimating impact and delivering aid efforts.”

Each country possesses its own summary page that users can view high resolution maps showing population numbers, age distributions, births, pregnancies, rates of poverty and urban growth.. Currently, WorldPop provides free data for Africa, Asia and Central and South America. Researches now plan to expand the project to cover all continents of the world and stress that datasets are regularly updated as necessary.

“The global human population is growing by over 80 million a year, and is projected to reach the 10 billion mark within 50 years. The vast majority of this growth is expected to be concentrated in low income countries, and primarily in urban areas. The effects of such rapid growth are well documented, with the economies, environment and health of nations all undergoing significant change,” said Tatem.

– Sonia Aviv

Sources: Health Canal, Geospatial World, University of Southampton
Photo: WorldPop