AI-based map for sustainable urban planning in Zambia

Accurate digital mapping is essential for ensuring connectivity, charting economic growth, describing demographic patterns, and gaining an overview of resource concentration and allocation. It is a powerful visual tool for decision-makers to tackle skewed development models, tackle social disparities and craft sustainable policies.

Last year, Ordnance Survey, the UK’s national mapping agency, partnered with the Zambian government to create an AI-powered digital base map of the capital Lusaka. The Zambian Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources, the Zambian Ministry of Local Government, the International Growth Center and the Commonwealth Association of Architects participated in the project.

Zambian authorities use these maps to effectively plan investments, monitor and identify gaps in the country’s public infrastructure. They are also used to improve access to health care and provide adequate sanitation facilities.

Basemap Lusaka

Rampant urbanization and the anarchic growth of agglomerations lead to a lack of basic facilities such as access to water, electricity, sanitation, connectivity and other public services. With accurate information based on aerial data and imagery, the government gets a clear picture of the sprawl and can take action accordingly.

Lusaka is a bustling commercial city as well as the seat of the Zambian government. It is one of the fastest growing cities in Southern Africa with a population of over three million.

Detailed map of Lusaka

An estimated 70% of the city’s population lives in informal settlements, which can be formalized with very precise and accurate mapping, leading to citizen empowerment and rapid progress in land administration and tenure. land. Digital maps also play a role in better transport planning.

“The introduction of OS’s AI-enabled basemap has unlocked new geospatial analysis capabilities to support planning and policy decisions. This has enabled the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources to quickly update its maps and create different thematic maps using AI capabilities,” says Dr Emmanuel Tembo, Land Titles Officer, Zambia Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources.

“OS’ groundbreaking technology means our government can quickly make informed decisions on many issues, including urban housing policy and climate change adaptation issues,” he adds.

Global Lessons

The OS base map of Lusaka provides information on informal settlements and is useful in sustainable urban development to meet the basic needs of citizens.

“Our creation of a scalable and repeatable digital basemap is not only relevant for cities like Lusaka. It has considerable advantages; national, regional and even global. It provides crucial information on aspects such as population and density, number of structures built, location of infrastructure including water and energy supply. To better target investments. To improve application and service development,” says Juliet Ezechie, Head of International at OS.

“Detailed mapping is essential for addressing the challenges of urban life and can be a powerful tool for transformational change in sustainable cities. Understanding the true nature of the real world leads to informed decisions that can improve the quality of life for citizens,” she adds.

OS created the base map from aerial imagery, using an automated process. Machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) enabled OS to train a computer system to find, label, and vectorize features in images, using training data. These features included covered structures, natural surface, sealed surface, roads (including road networks), grass, trees and water.