GRID3 Nigeria: Using geospatial infrastructure & population data in support of decision making and effective application of resources for development

In 2012, Nigeria accounted for over half of all polio cases in the world, even though cases had fallen by over 99% globally in the previous 30 years. For Polio to be eradicated, all children under 5 years must be reached, wherever they are, and vaccinated with vaccines offering protection against polio. To address this challenge and ensure every settlement and child is reached by vaccination teams, Nigeria introduced an innovative GIS (Geographic Information System) mapping of settlements in the 11 polio endemic States in northern Nigeria.

The GRID3 Nigeria (Geo-Referenced Infrastructure and Demographic Data for Development) project grew out of the idea to carry out GIS (Geographic Information System) mapping work to locate every child and vaccinate them against polio. In 2013, the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) through the Nigeria Polio Eradication Initiative (NPEI) developed a new population estimate model, using high-resolution satellite imagery and micro-census information. The NPEI, supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, initially focused on creating accurate, complete, and geospatially referenced settlement maps in 11 polio-endemic states in Northern Nigeria to support polio micro-planning and to serve as a base layer for GIS monitoring of vaccination teams. The GIS maps and vaccination team monitoring played a contributory role in the polio success story in Nigeria, especially in areas that have not reported wild polio cases since 2014. As a result, in 2017 Nigeria completed a full year without any reported wild polio cases.

But the impact of improved high-resolution population data goes far beyond polio, and even beyond other health interventions. The attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) relies on robust national statistical systems, not only to report progress but also to make informed decisions and monitor effectively policies and development actions. High-resolution information on populations, infrastructures, and boundaries are essential to achieve national (Vision 202020) and global targets, and non-traditional data sources can play a supportive role in strengthening data systems.

We are embarking on an exciting journey in Nigeria to model, develop and apply geospatial infrastructure on a larger scale for humanitarian and development purposes through the GRID3 programme, and the World Data Forum is a fantastic opportunity to bring data experts together and discuss how we can take this vision further.

GRID3 Nigeria is part of the global GRID3 initiative that provides support to low- and middle-income countries to collect, analyse, integrate, disseminate and utilise high-resolution geo-referenced data on population, boundaries, settlements, social services and infrastructure for evidence-based development and humanitarian decision making.

Today, GRID3 has expanded data collection and mapping across all states in Nigeria and is developing innovative tools to support decision and policy making at all levels throughout the country.

GRID3 Nigeria will not only generate improved geospatial data, but will also work to ensure the data can be used and shared. By both strengthening data systems and conducting trainings on the use and maintenance of those systems, we aim to strengthen national and sub-national institutions for a sustainable model and the continued use of GRID3 data products.

GRID3 also aims to map all settlements (i.e. localities or populated places in which people live) in every state by defining their boundaries. Within settlements, we will map important points of interests, such as health facilities, schools, industrial areas, water points and markets (among others). We will also model the number of people and demographic characteristics within settlements using geospatial technology developed by WorldPop.

A major challenge with cross-cutting projects like GRID3 can be duplication of efforts. To minimise this waste of resources, Nigeria is setting up a coordination platform under the leadership of the Federal Ministry of Budget and National Planning. The platform will link together key stakeholders at the national level to promote data sharing and ensure the creation of an open-source data portal.

Another common challenge in successfully implementing this kind of project is to ensure that the right people can access and use the data that can help in their decision making. To this end, the coordination platform will support the application of GRID3 data at the national and sub-national (state) levels. Through these applications, GRID3 will help improve decision making and optimise service delivery along key social sector interventions.

Figures (a) Predicted mean percentage of population under 5 years of age and (b) confidence interval associated with each prediction, at a 1 km by 1 km resolution. The data was produced using WorldPop/Flowminder geostatistical modelling techniques. The modelling component of GRID3 allows for high-resolution demographic data to be available at a lower cost and more quickly than a census based only on survey collection.

Source: V. A. Alegana, et al. Fine resolution mapping of population age-structures for health and development applications. J R Soc Interface. 2015 Apr 6;12(105)

GRID3 is supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Department for International Development (DFID) of the United Kingdom. Its technical implementation lies with WorldPop/Flowminder and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), and its coordination with the Center for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN).

We appreciate the efforts of UNFPA, WorldPop/Flowminder, and CIESIN in providing assistance to strengthen GRID3 Nigeria, and we look forward to additional long-term assistance and partnerships to facilitate and build up institutional integration of the GRID3 programme in Nigeria.

In the end, the project is expected to help improve allocation of scarce resources in areas of greatest need, support humanitarian relief services in response to man-made and/or natural disasters, and replicate the success of its application on polio eradication to a wider range of sectors.

The GRID3 global team will be running a session at this year's World Data Forum entitled "SDG Data Challenges and Opportunities: Geospatial Reference, Infrastructure and Demographic Data for Development". Join us to further the conversation and discuss how geo-referenced data can support Nigeria and many other countries in enhancing their development.