Facebook released last Monday new disease prevention maps that health organizations can use to combat epidemics.
The maps provide detailed information such as population density, real-time movement of people and network connectivity between regions. Facebook published similar maps two years ago to help non-governmental organizations respond to natural disasters. It has therefore applied the same idea to public health.
The aim is to provide researchers and epidemiologists with new tools to monitor the spread of diseases such as malaria, measles or flu. This initiative comes at a time when, also as a result of the growth of anti-vacin movements, there is an increase in preventable diseases in the United States, such as measles, which, in 2000, was considered extinct by the Center for Disease Control.
Facebook is sharing its new maps with 13 initial partners, including the Harvard School of Public Health, UNICEF and the World Economic Forum. Partners will have access to the three types of maps and the corresponding data.
The maps use data collected from sources such as the U.S. Census Bureau and some of the 2.3 billion Facebook users. Access to maps with Facebook user information is limited to project partners. Demographic and density maps, fed by public data, are open to the public.
To provide population density and demographic information, Facebook collaborated with Columbia University to combine satellite imagery and census data with artificial intelligence. The result is high-resolution maps showing estimates for the number of people living within small areas up to 30 meters by 30. The maps also provide demographic information about each area, such as the number of children under the age of five years or the number of women of reproductive age.