Geocoding and Data Visualization

Data visualization is the next frontier in improving aid information accessibility and usefulness. Data visualization and geocoding allow users to quickly analyze vast amounts of information using tools such as charts, graphs, and maps. These images often reveal stories about aid that might otherwise be difficult to observe, such as the relationship between aid activity locations and local poverty indicators.

Development Gateway is working at the forefront of the aid data visualization and mapping movement. Our work with partners such as the World Bank, the African Development Bank, and the Kellogg Foundation to develop visualizations of their aid activities has garnered global attention.



Geocoding involves identifying the precise location of an aid activity and tagging it with geographic information so that it can be mapped. Geocoded aid information allows for quick and easy spatial analysis of aid information.

Development Gateway provides geocoding services as well as mapping and visualization tools.  Geocoding follows the UCDP/AidData methodology, which was developed jointly by AidData and the Uppsala Conflict Data Program of Uppsala University in Sweden. The methodology is available at, and is referenced by the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) data reporting standard.

Using the UCDP/AidData geocoding methodology, trained researchers tag development project records with precise geographic locations. With these data, organizations can create interactive mapping platforms that enable users to explore aid project locations and related information. Geocoding services help governments and their donor partners see the big picture of development assistance: who is doing what, where, and how. This makes it easier for project managers to monitor aid financing, find opportunities for collaboration with other donors, and engage in informed dialogue with citizens interested in the impact of aid delivery.

The UCDP/AidData geocoding methodology accounts for the fact that most aid projects are implemented over multiple geographic locations of varying size. A telecommunications project, for example, may fund the construction of long-distance telephone systems in several cities across multiple administrative divisions (i.e. region or principality). Coding experts scan relevant project documents (e.g. project appraisal documents) to identify cities or administrative regions impacted by the project, and use free gazetteers like and Google Earth to obtain geographic coordinates for the locations identified. By defining multiple levels of geographic precision, the methodology accounts for aid projects of all shapes and sizes.

The power of geocoding has recently been showcased by the World Bank, which created the Mapping for Results program in partnership with AidData. Through Mapping for Results, AidData researchers identified the locations of all current World Bank activities  (over 2,700 active Bank projects in 81 countries) and plotted them against indicators of need, such as levels of malnutrition.  Using the data, the World Bank created maps that empower Bank staff and government counterparts, as well as the public at large, to quickly view where aid is going and where more interventions might be needed.

Now, Development Gateway and its AidData partners are working with other donors to geocode different kinds of aid projects. In the summer of 2011, the African Development Bank (AfDB) and AidData released a geocoded data set of AfDB projects representing more than $10 billion in funding to 43 African countries.  Currently, AidData is working with the Government of Malawi to geocode all activities by all donors captured in Malawi’s Aid Management Platform, enabling a clear view of aid allocation across the entire country.

[toggle]Data Mining, Analysis and Visualization

Given the right information in an accessible format, development organizations can maximize the impact of their aid interventions by coordinating activities with other donors, targeting aid to areas of most need, and monitoring the impact of aid projects and programs.  But because this information is often published in a variety of locations in a wide range of formats, it can be difficult for individual aid workers or organizations to amass complete and reliable datasets.

Development Gateway has developed customizable interactive dashboards and data analysis tools to help development professionals quickly get the information they need.  The main goal of these dashboards is to aggregate granular information on aid activities and make these data accessible and digestible through interactive charts and graphs.  Users can quickly generate snapshots of donor activities over time, or dig deeper to analyze aid allocation based on specific recipients and aid activities. Using the dashboards, those interested in a particular sub-sector, an agency or country can easily analyze aid activities and draw informed conclusions. Analytical dashboards have already been developed for both AidData and the World Bank’s Global Facility for Disaster Risk Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR).

[toggle]Geographical Information Systems

In addition to mapping out aid projects, Development Gateway develops platforms that enable users to explore development finance on interactive maps. Working with software such as the Esri ArcGIS server and the Open Source Geospatial Foundation (OSGeo) server, Development Gateway creates custom maps that display aid project locations and related information (e.g. financing amounts, implementing agencies, relevant documents, etc.). With technical support from Esri, we created Development Loop, a simple web and mobile app that visualizes active World Bank and African Development Bank aid projects.

Other examples of Development Gateway’s mapping work include the Kosovo aid map, which displays foreign aid to Kosovo by municipality and has been made available to the public on the AMP Kosovo website. Also, Geographic Information Systems (GIS) solutions have been used in Liberia to showcase the locations of aid activities, and are currently being integrated into the Aid Management Platform and AidData portal.

Development Loop

Development Loop is a simple, easy-to-use app that tells the real story of foreign assistance by enabling users to add and edit their own project information at a sub-national level, including comments, pictures, and stories, and to view and share this information with others in both online and offline environments. Users can view their own projects alongside those of other organizations or important indicators, such poverty rates or maternal mortality. It can also be linked to beneficiary feedback.

The prototype created for the World Bank’s Apps for Development contest includes current development projects from the World Bank and the African Development Bank, several World Development Indicators, and, perhaps uniquely, local citizen feedback collected by the non-profit GlobalGiving. Development Loop uses these layers to create feedback loops that enable the social monitoring of development projects/programs and facilitate mutual accountability.