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The Rural Access Index (RAI)

The Rural Access Index (RAI),1 a key transport headline indicator, has been established to focus on the critical role of access and mobility in the reduction of poverty in developing countries. The RAI estimates the proportion of the rural population who have adequate access to the transport system. A Powerpoint presentation on the Rural Access Index (PPT 15 MB) is also available.

The RAI was developed as part of the Results Measurement Framework for IDA. It was introduced in July 2005 for the 14th tranche of IDA funding. Measurement of RAI is based on household survey data to estimate the number of people who live within 2 kilometers (or about 25 minutes walking time) of the nearest all-weather road (Roberts, KC, and Rastogi 2006).1 In the absence of such data, however, road network models are also applied to calculate the proportion of rural habitable areas that are within 2 kilometers of all-weather roads as an approximation.

The current RAI estimates for 178 countries indicate that over one billion (31 percent) of the world's rural population (98 percent of them in developing countries) do not have adequate access to transport (PDF 35 KB).

Country and Regional Data

The index clearly shows that there are large variations in rural access, not only by country but also by region (PDF 636 KB), by the eligibility status of Bank loans of a country (PDF 11 KB), and often more pronounced by sub-national region (PDF 37 KB). By region, for example, 90 percent of the rural population in East Asia and the Pacific, enjoy access to transport, whereas only 34 percent of their counterparts in Sub-Saharan Africa do. By the Bank loan eligibility of a country, IBRD (or non-IDA eligible) countries have an RAI average of 85 percent. The poorest rural access is in IDA-only countries where, on average, 60 percent of the population do not have acess to transport (PDF 18 KB) .

Rural Access Index and the Millenium Development Goals

The distribution of RAI values suggests significant associations between rural access and other factors 2 such as poverty, maternal mortality (PDF 699 KB) and gender equity (PDF 1.8 MB). The Index is expected to capture changes in rural access as a result of development in the transport sector. The RAI and Poverty maps of Vietnam, for example, demonstrate dramatic improvements in RAI over a short period of time (PDF 17 KB) and their close correlations with the reduction of poverty (PDF 3 MB) .

A Powerpoint presentation on the Rural Access Index (PPT 15 MB) offers the option of viewing three slide shows:

  • Global rural access and its association to maternal mortality
  • Progress on rural access and poverty reduction at the provincial level in Vietnam
  • Varations in rural access by region, by the eligibility status of Bank loans of a country, and by sub-national region

1Roberts, Peter, Shyam KC, and Cordula Rastogi. March 2006. Rural Access Index: A Key Development Indicator. Transport Papers (TP-10). World Bank. (PDF 375 KB)

2Adobe Flash Player is required to access this link to an animated map. To begin using the map, click on GO (right-hand side of screen), then click on TRANSFORMED MAP on the top menu. Use the right hand menu to show how the RAI relates to social indicators.

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