Zambia to use AI to address urbanisation challenges in Lusaka

Lusaka Adobe stockZambia has partnered with organisations Ordnance Survey (OS), the International Growth Centre (IGC) and the Commonwealth Association of Architects (CAA) to use artificial intelligence to address challenges of urbanisation in Lusaka

The organisations are piloting the creation of an automated digital base map of Lusaka.

Using aerial imagery provided by the Zambia Survey Department in the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources, OS has utilised its advanced automated process to generate a new base map using Artificial Intelligence across 420 sq km of Lusaka. This technique is a rapid, accurate and cost-effective way to generate a detailed digital map that has a multitude of use cases, including the design and management of critical infrastructure services, land use planning, transport planning, land tenure, ownership and administration together with the integration of future census data.

The world is rapidly urbanising with more than 55% of the global population now living in urban areas and by 2050, it is projected to expand by an additional 2.5 billion urban dwellers. Sub-Saharan Africa in particular, is urbanising twice as fast as Europe with urban populations expected to triple by 2050. 

The World Bank estimate that 54% of sub-Saharan African urban dwellers are living in informal settlements and between 50% and 80% rely on informal jobs. These dwellings are overcrowded, often polluted, with inadequate housing, and limited access to water and sanitation facilities. Furthermore, these informal sites lack the infrastructure required to support sustainable, liveable and productive urban environments.

OS mapping data is set to help identify informal settlements, population and density, the number of built structures, the location of transport infrastructure surrounding the formal and informal neighbourhoods, as well as access to electricity, sanitation facilities and clean water. A sister project, led by Patrick Lamson-Hall of New York University’s Marron Institute, is contributing to this analysis by creating a typology of the various informal settlements and tracking their expansion over time. 

By 2025, around 440 cities in emerging economies will contribute to nearly half of global economic growth. Sprawling urban areas limit access to job opportunities and social and commercial services while also being disconnected. If well-managed and planned, urbanisation in rapidly developing cities can be transformative, creating jobs, reducing poverty, and improving residents’ quality of life with better access to healthcare and cleaner water.

Andy Wilson, region director, Africa OS, said, “This programme will promote the value associated with accurate and relevant spatial data. The rapid delivery of a scalable and replicable national digital base map is not only relevant to cities such as Lusaka, but also has far reaching benefits at national and regional scale.”

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