Spatial Agent: A World of Data at Your Fingertips

Solutions to many of the development challenges faced across the globe are hampered by the poor availability of spatial data. How can you easily find out which areas in Madagascar are susceptible to cyclones? Or how about which areas in India have high child malnutrition? Or what the major exports of Vietnam are? Or how fast the population in Lagos is rising?

The World Bank, in its quest to improve data transparency and open data platforms, has developed an easily accessible way to get answers—a Spatial Agent application that visualizes available spatial and temporal development-related data on an interactive mobile platform. It pulls together thousands of types of data from more than 300 web services from major institutions—United Nations Organizations, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), European Space Agency (ESA), World Bank, universities, and many more.

The Many Applications of Spatial Data

“Many of our development challenges and solutions require us to visualize data in a spatial perspective. We are presenting a new paradigm for easy and intuitive access to development data—highlighting public-domain online data services from sources around the world,” says Nagaraja Rao Harshadeep, a Global Lead for Watersheds with the Bank’s Environment and Natural Resources Global Practice, and leader of the Spatial Agent app team. “This should help us explore multi-sectoral synergies in a spatial development context. We plan to add more data services, interactivity, and functions as we move forward.”

The Spatial Agent app promotes the sharing of ideas and experiences and provides a shared evidence base for planning and policy making. Development challenges that spatial data visualizations can be useful for include:

•  Social issues, such as population density and growth patterns, poverty, and water supply. For example, variations in water supply coverage across African regions.
•  Economic issues, such as gross domestic product, energy access, infrastructure, trade, and irrigation. For example, irrigation prevalence in the Indian subcontinent.
•  Climate issues, such as temperature, precipitation, floods, real-time snow cover, and climate change scenarios. For example, historical precipitation variability and future climate change implications for the Nile basin.
•  Environmental issues, such as water resources, erosion, land use, forest density, and biodiversity. For example, comparing deforestation in Indonesia and the Amazon.

The Many Applications of Spatial Data

The Open Learning Campus (OLC) will offer trainings and learning resources on its platform for the Spatial Agent app, such as a new tutorial. In its January 24 webinar, Collecting, Accessing & Visualizing Data, participants can explore how spatial information is useful in a watershed/basin context and apply the app.

The OLC is exploring how it can use immersive tools, such as spatial data, to deepen user engagement and authenticity in the learning experience. Big data analytics with data visualization enables learners to benefit from realistic simulations. The Spatial Agent app was a winner in the OLC’s bite-sized learning competition held in spring 2015, which asked for innovative tools that could make knowledge easier to access and apply.

The Spatial Agent app can be downloaded for free for iOS (such as for the iPhone or iPad) or Android (phones or tablets) platforms. The web version is being developed with the Bank’s Global Reach effort for launch later this year. For any queries or suggestions, email spatialagent@worldbank.org.


Related links


•  Contact: spatialagent@worldbank.org
•  Spatial Agent App for iOS or Android
•  Open Learning Campus Tutorial for Spatial Agent
•  Open Learning Campus Webinar (English, French, Spanish, and Russian versions)