Geospatial analysis in evaluation

This blog from the Independent Evaluation Group (IEG) highlights the role of geospatial data in understanding change in phenomena, and answering questions of relevance and effectiveness of development interventions.

This resource and the following information was contributed by Simon Davies.

Authors and their affiliation

Virginia Ziulu, IEG, World Bank Group

Jos Vaessen, IEG, World Bank Group

Maria Elena Pinglo, IEG, World Bank Group

Victor Vergara, IEG, World Bank Group

Key features

This blog starts by highlighting that geospatial data, such as that contained in satellite imagery, have become easier to work with recently due to increasing computing power and availability of machine learning algorithms.

The main content of the blog is divided into three sections; Understanding change, Understanding relevance, and Understanding effectiveness.

Understanding change

Analysis of geospatial data can describe how certain phenomena change over time. The example provided shows how satellite image data was analysed using an algorithm to evaluate an urban development project in Bathore, Albania.

Understanding relevance

Combining geospatial data and other existing data, such as population and GDP, can help to ascertain areas of greatest need and help to move beyond national averages and expose regional disparities.

Understanding effectiveness

Due to the open availability of much geospatial data it is useful for building spatial counterfactuals, as control groups for areas in which a program was active. An example is provided in which a combination of techniques were used to conduct an impact assessment of a road improvement project in Mozambique. 


"Geospatial analysis can be instrumental towards helping identify and understand the geographical impact of interventions and directing development efforts where they are most needed."

A discussion of the limitations of geospatial techniques is also provided, including that while computational capacities have increased, specialised equipment and skills may still be required for in-depth analysis.

How have you used or intend on using this resource?

This resource is useful to gain a broad understanding of how geospatial data may be used in evaluations as well as gaining insight into some specific benefits and challenges of using the technique. 

Why would you recommend it to other people?

The content assumes some prior knowledge of evaluation or research methods, but is not overly technical and it's segmented well to make it easy to digest. The examples provided help the reader to understand how the concepts may apply to their work.