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Downstream Service/Application Development for Monitoring of Environmental Indicators

Point of contact
Hannes Taubenböck
German Aerospace Center (DLR)
Münchener Str. 20
82243 Weßling
Phone: +49-8153-282480


This action aims at identifying remote sensing based indicators to be used by researchers and municipalities for evaluating and governing the dynamics, locations and types of slum and informal settlement development in fast growing African cities. The action aims to attract new users world-wide (e.g. Africa) and addresses public authorities, industry and academia in different application fields. Stakeholder groups are consulted as well as trained with use case specific needs and the application of gained mapping products.

With 32.7% of global city dwellers estimated to live in slums (UN-Habitat, 2009), with an expected global population growth of 2.3 billion people until 2050 (UN-Habitat, 2016), and in a world where place of birth as well as living environments have major influence on (economic) wealth (Milanovic, 2016), the pressure on cities and their societies is increasing. Challenges related to the process of urbanization are echoed by intergovernmental agreements on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) (UN-Habitat, 2016): ‘To end poverty’, (SDG1) and ‘to build sustainable cities and communities’ (SDG 11) are, among others, development goals explicitly related to urban poverty. For creating sustainable development strategies, data and information are crucial. However, for the ‘city of the poor’ most countries lack adequate data to identify and monitor these places, to understand processes, their inhabitants, their behaviour, etc. Although we live in an era in which more (geo)data are available than ever before in human history, the World Migration Report (World Migration Report, 2015) states “we face a massive lack of basic data about urban poverty”; thus, the poorest people often remain invisible in statistics (World Migration Report, 2015). And, if data are available, the credibility of these data is in doubt (Tacoli, McGranahan & Satterthwaite, 2015; Taubenböck & Wurm, 2015).

By using the new Copernicus sentinel data, the opportunity is given to have large-area, cost-free and consistent coverage of high resolution optical satellite data. Thus, the objective is to identify and define useful parameters and indicators useful for localizing and characterizing the living environments of the urban poor in African cities. Beyond application, concepts and developed methods will be demonstrated in pilots as preparation for future operational applications. Since better data are of the greatest relevance this application aims to demonstrate their use for research and government.

Organic, amorphous, complex, and dense seas of makeshift shelters have significantly different physical appearances than formal, planned parts in cities. With it, the built environment can be an expression of inequality in cities, and socio-economic disparities even become visible from space (Sliuzas, Mboup, & de Sherbinin, 2008; Taubenböck, Kraff & Wurm, 2018). While a first superficial observation may suggest forms of living at the lower end of urban societies feature great similarities in terms of their physical appearance, (informal) processes such as illegal land occupation in different cities across Africa do not always shape such distinct and demarcating building morphologies and patterns for this social group.

The work of this action will transfer existing conceptual knowledge on the living environments of the urban poor to the African situation. It will develop and provide applications based on Sentinel-1 and Sentinel-2 data. The application will be tested and demonstrated for cities distributed across Africa. Mapping products will be a result of these actions. This action includes user requirements and user uptake workshops. These workshops allow integrating the interests of local stakeholders. With this, the application development will ensure a transferable approach, and will stimulate exchange between user communities. One user requirement workshop will be organized in the starting phase of the project in Africa for a joint conceptual understanding of applications. A second user up-take workshop will be organized towards the final project phase.

Outputs and Results

  • User requirement workshop
  • Downstream application concept development to support the monitoring of the slum growth of cities
  • Demonstration of feasibility and benefit analysis
  • User uptake workshop