Geospatial data contains an innately interoperable attribute that serves to connect data from sectors and geographies to inform and improve decision making. Data producers and users alike benefit from the increased utility that comes from geospatially integrated data, systems, and tools. In many Sub-Saharan Africa countries significant gaps still need to be addressed in the quality, completeness and sustainability of geospatial data. Lack of capacity can cause countries to be slow to adopt methodologies to produce, maintain, and more importantly, benefit from robust geospatial data and analysis systems. Lack of new tools or approaches to geospatial data can inhibit many opportunities for growth and innovation. Given the rapid recent advances in data and geospatial technology, now is a critical time to invest in ensuring that Sub-Saharan Africa is mapped and has the tools to use geospatial data effectively and sustainably. Building better data systems in the long-term can contribute to more informed policy making or improved decision making to reduced inequity while in the short-term provide rapid information to prevent disasters such as large-scale epidemics.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation GD SPM team aims to provide global public goods for geospatial data with the goal to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of creating and using location-based analysis to accelerate the reduction of global inequities. We frame this work around three initiatives:
- Collation and creation of a complete map of Sub-Saharan Africa with the basic core geospatial data layers: road networks, settlement names & locations, key points of interest, and water bodies. Countries, stakeholders and other partners may build on these core data layers to develop enhanced contextual layers such as population estimates;
- Country capacity development to maintain maps through improved data gathering or sharing to ensure more integrated systems and adoption of geospatial data;
- Innovation pilots to provide shared-learning on how multiple types of data can be used to improve decision making.
The goal in select countries will be to collate additional development data layers in areas such as health, agriculture, and finance, which can benefit from more coordinated and efficient collection, storage and sharing practices. African expertise in local context is indispensable to the development data agenda. Now is an important time to continue our investment in geospatial data and expand country capacity so they can continue to advance evidence-based policy change on the continent.