US aid agency to enlist satellites to boost development
WASHINGTON — The US Agency for International Development (USAID) plans to combine satellite imagery with on-the-ground surveys to better fight food shortages and other problems in developing countries, a report said.
USAID will set up a Geospatial Intelligence Center, or GeoCenter, before the end of the year to promote a better use of development funds, said Nextgov.com, which covers the management of information technology in the US government.
It said experts can better predict where food shortages will arise and tackle them if they match data on conflict, economic development and population movements with satellite-based maps of farm output, roads and weather patterns.
Nextgov.com, quoting panelists at a USAID seminar on Wednesday, said the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention used satellite images and other data to map the Kakuma refugee camp in northern Kenya.
The camp is home to 60,000 people who are fleeing violence in neighboring Somalia and Sudan.
Shadrock Roberts, a CDC researcher and a designer of the new GeoCenter, said CDC workers told him that maps of other camps could, for example, sharply cut the time it takes to monitor the spread of disease, according to Nextgov.com.
CDC workers who travel to new refugee camps waste time determining the camp's contours and even get lost, Roberts was quoted as saying.
"The key part about thinking spatially isn't about computer programs," Roberts was quoted as saying.
"If your thing is food security or health or agriculture or economics or governance or internally displaced persons or whatever, it always starts with a question and we're here to help people sharpen those questions and to start thinking about the spatial components to them."
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