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  • Grace Grimsley, College of William & Mary

Introducing GeoQuery

Geospatial research is often limited across certain disciplines due to its complex nature; compiling and working with spatial data can be tricky and mastering programs like ArcGIS and Q takes considerable time. Imagine being able to download all the geospatial data you wanted in under 5 minutes, without any special technical knowledge. With AidData’s new GeoQuery tool, accessing geospatial data has never been easier.

What is AidData? AidData is a research and innovation lab at the College of William & Mary (Williamsburg, VA, USA) that tracks global development finance flows with the mission of increasing aid transparency, accountability, and efficacy. By focusing on the question who is doing what, where, for whom and to what extent, student teams produce cutting-edge research to support sustainable development. All data is open-source and publicly available.

What is GeoQuery? Geoquery is a data extraction tool designed to pull information from AidData’s new (geo)framework. The (geo)framework holds all kinds of spatial data in both raster and vector formats and allows users to extract data without needing to use geospatial software.

How does it work? GeoQuery is designed to be user friendly; you don’t need any special experience or knowledge to operate it, that’s what makes it so great – anyone from practitioners, to professional researchers, to students can easily access the data. You simply choose your country and administrative level of analysis, select your datasets, customize your request, and the data link will be emailed to you in under 5 minutes! Data is compatible with Excel, STATA, R, and more, and your link never expires.

Where does the data come from? Datasets are compiled by AidData’s GeoData Team. They work to find and create the best datasets to incorporate into the tool. Currently available datasets pertain to population, environment, conflict, heath, access to infrastructure, and economic development. Although GIS data for administrative boundaries is currently not available through GeoQuery, AidData’s GeoBoundaries Team is working to put together the most comprehensive, accurate boundary data available.

In addition to this data collected from third parties, GeoQuery features AidData’s own sub-nationally geocoded data on international aid and development finance. Geocoded aid datasets range from World Bank and AIMS projects to AfroBarometer survey data to Chinese official finance in Africa (2000-2012) and more. The Geocoding Team methodically geotags aid locations to create operational geospatial data for use in impact evaluation and other analyses. Developed in partnership with Uppsala Conflict Data Program (UCDP) and revised by International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI), AidData’s geocoding methodology has become a global standard. GeoQuery has the ability to convert this tabular aid data into rasters representing aid distributions across geometry.

With this simple interface, AidData aims to increase the accessibility of geospatial data for decision makers in a variety of fields and ultimately facilitate more effective data-driven decisions.

Grace Grimsley is a USAID GeoCenter/ YouthMappers intern from Warrenton, Virginia. She is majoring in International Relations and minoring in Data Science at the College of William & Mary. She currently works as a geocoding research assistant for AidData and will join the GeoBoundaries Team at the start of 2018. In the future, she wants to have a career in foreign aid and development where she hopes to continue her love of geospatial problem solving to increase aid efficacy around the globe. In her free time, Grace supports William & Mary’s football and basketball teams as a Tribe cheerleader.

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