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The University of Southampton
Geography and Environmental Science

Southampton postgraduate researcher wins international prize

Published: 8 February 2018
Combining water point data and machine learning to predict the geography of disadvantaged services

Weiyu (Terry) Yu, Postgraduate Research Student from Geography and Environment at Southampton, has won first prize in the international #SDGinsights competition. This competition was organised by Unite Ideas in collaboration with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Development Policy & Analysis Division (DPAD) of United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA). The competition asked participants to combine Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) data with other georeferenced datasets in an innovative way to help visualise and explore the progress of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Weiyu’s idea was to combine DHS with water point mapping databases. Water point mapping is an approach for surveying water supply facilities (e.g. wells, boreholes) throughout a country, and has been widely adopted by WaterAid and other organisations. Weiyu used predictive modelling to pull together these two information streams and predict the geography of disadvantaged services in the least developed countries to help understand where service delivery is falling behind and reveal issues such as the inequalities hidden by national averages. In awarding the prize to Weiyu, the judges commented that his idea “…solves the particular technical difficulties in joining various datasets, also gives a very nice illustration of the potential of this methodology to inform development policy.”

“I’ve been studying in Southampton with Dr Jim Wright and Dr Nicola Wardrop on water and sanitation-related topics for the last few years” Weiyu said. “I’m delighted to have won this prize, which will give me a chance to share my ideas with international development organisations and hopefully help improve access to safe water and sanitation in the places that most need it.”

You can now watch the Unite Ideas video of Weiyu and Jim presenting their solution for the competition.


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