Rural accessibility mapping

Traditionally, improvements to accessibility for rural women through World Bank transport programs have been measured by the change in the number of villagers who live within 2 km of an all-weather or paved road. However, this indicator is not helpful for rural road maintenance or service planning, because the objective of Bank programs is not to maximize the number of persons living next to paved roads. Rather, it is to reduce travel times for the most villagers to the places they need to go – markets, schools, health clinics, etc. 

With advances in GIS technology and open-source code libraries, the project team, led by the World Bank Development Economics Data Group, developed a multi-lingual, web-based tool to quickly estimate rural women’s accessibility in terms of the percent of village women who can access a place or service within X minutes by road, before and after an investment program. This project addressed SDG 9 – Industry, innovation and infrastructure.

The Rural Accessibility Map (RAM) is an open-source and web-based analytical tool which helps assess the accessibility of rural populations in relation to critical services. Using the Open Source Routing Machine, RAM simulates the shortest paths from villages (or population centers) to different points of interest (POIs) and outputs accessibility indicators (defined as the percentage of population that can access the nearest POI in X amount of time). The accessibility indicator, produced before and after road rehabilitation/upgrade projects, can be used to determine the impact of the intervention.

To use the platform, a set of geospatial data are required, which include road network, population at the village level, POIs, and administrative boundaries. While the input data could be uploaded by the user manually in .geojson format (for population, administrative boundaries and POI) or .osm format (for road network), users can also query the OpenStreetMap (OSM) directly from the platform for road network and POI input data.

In one case study, the new RAM was used to determine how a road investment program could increase participation in a subsidy program. The program would help rural women in Qianxinan Prefecture in China by expanding women’s access to certified health clinics. The project analyzed women’s access to four different classes of ‘points of service’: Health Facilities, County Seats, Financial Services and Schools.

For each service type, the project estimated women’s access to the services both before the improvement to the road network (‘baseline’ scenario) and after upgrades to the road network, which were assumed to increase travel speed across those segments (‘upgrade’ scenario). The project then compared the baseline and upgrade scenarios to identify the areas of greatest improvement.

The manual for administrators is available on GitHub ( together with the code repository, which will guide on how to manage the platform and grant the permit to the users to publish the result to an online repository. 

Disclaimer: As many of the links are external, some links may not work.