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What Satellite Images Can Tell Us About Countries' Economies

An early morning view photographed by one of the Expedition 40 crew members aboard the Earth-orbiting International Space Station on July 22, 2014. (NASA)
An early morning view photographed by one of the Expedition 40 crew members aboard the Earth-orbiting International Space Station on July 22, 2014. (NASA)

Cameras orbiting the earth are becoming less expensive and therefore more widespread. And as Bloomberg News reports, the images collected are providing a lot of economic information, to everyone from investors to aid organizations.

Jeff Kearns writes in Bloomberg:

In Myanmar, night lights indicate slower growth than World Bank estimates. In Kenya, photos of homes with metal roofs can show transition from poverty. In China, trucks in factory parking lots can indicate industrial output.

Images from these and other satellites, combined with big-data software, are helping to create what former NASA scientist James Crawford calls a "macroscope" to "see things that are too large to be taken in by the human eye." Aid organizations can use the results to distribute donations. Investors can mine them to pick stocks.

Here & Now‘s Robin Young speaks with Bloomberg’s Michael Reagan about the story.

Guest

  • Michael Regan, editor at Bloomberg News. He tweets @Reganonymous.
  • Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.