I used to do economic geography research and still like to look at maps. People in the know will probably remember Adrian Firth’s dot maps of the 2011 census. They are still quite cool.
Currently, Facebook is putting together high resolution population maps, for among other countries South Africa, at 30 meter spatial resolution. The World Bank is working with this and has done some validation for Malawi. The Data Blog writes:
Facebook’s computer vision approach is a very fast method to produce spatially-explicit country-wide population estimates. Using their method, Facebook successfully generated at-scale, high-resolution insights on the distribution of buildings, unmatched by any other remote sensing effort to date. These maps demonstrate the value of artificial intelligence for filling data gaps and creating new datasets, and they could provide a promising complement to household surveys and censuses.
It is seriously cool.