We Need to Improve GIS Boundary Data Accuracy for Better Development Decisions

tanzania administrative boundry maphttps://i0.wp.com/www.ictworks.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/tanzania-b... 200w" sizes=" 640px) 100vw, 640px" data-recalc-dims="1" />
Administrative areas are key to how development data, and development itself, is organized, yet in many countries, simply getting lists of the current administrative areas – provinces, regions, districts, counties, townships, wards or villages- is a problem, especially for lower-level areas.
Even when lists are available, it is not easy for stakeholders to get the boundary data (shape files) needed to map and display the data in Geographic Information Systems (GIS).  In many countries, the administrative areas change frequently – areas are split up or merged, or moved from one “parent” area to another.
Furthermore, occasionally the administrative area structure is different, or is coded differently, across different sectors in the same country. This makes comparing and combining data from different systems and sources very difficult and impedes efforts to display trends over time.
Even when we have maps and data sets which contain geo-coordinates or “points” (e.g. health facilities, schools or water points), it can be difficult to maintain up-to-date links between these “points” and the changing administrative areas they fall under.
One-off is Easy – Ongoing Accuracy is the Challenge
In Tanzania, the Government and stakeholders, with support from PATH, are beginning work to create a publicly available “administrative area registry”.
If successful, this registry would facilitate use of a range of boundary data sets by the government, NGOs and development practitioners, who will be able to display the data in easy-to-understand maps by administrative area.
We realize that the key challenge will not be producing the list, or making it available on a once-off-basis. That has been done before.
Rather, the challenge is maintaining it over time, and ensuring that governance processes are in place to update the registry whenever changes are made, to correct errors as they are identified and to evolve the accuracy of shape files over time.
We Need Your Help to Improve Boundary Data
Administrative area data issues are broader than any one organization, country, or sector and we would like to hear a variety of perspectives:

  • In what ways have you experienced these issues in your work?
  • How have you mitigated, or overcome these challenges?
  • What are some best practices you employ?
  • What initiatives are trying to solve these problems?
  • Who are the key institutions that are innovating practical solutions?
  • What useful open source software platforms could help solve these problems?
  • Which software and GIS groups are already working on these problems?

Please help kick start our boundary data discussion in the comments section of this post. We aim to develop a discussion in collaboration with the Digital Impact Alliance (DIAL) on this topic. If you would like to join our conversation, join our geo areas discussion group.
Together, we can find sustainable solutions to gather, maintain, and share crucial administrative area data for development.
By Elaine Baker, PATH Senior Program Officer – Digital Health
The post We Need to Improve GIS Boundary Data Accuracy for Better Development Decisions appeared first on ICTworks.