Developing Countries

USAID Research

GW is a founding university in USAID’s YouthMappers network, a tool built on open geospatial technology. YouthMappers was built to create a network of university students who help map communities in OpenStreetMap. This group has been rapidly expanding around the world: Since GW originally partnered with USAID on YouthMappers in 2015, the program has grown into a global network of 260 university chapters in more than 57 countries, including under-mapped nations like Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo. 


World Bank Collaboration

Researchers in the Center for Urban and Environmental Research (CUER) are working with the World Bank to examine the role of satellite imagery in detecting patterns of poverty and slums. This is done using a spectral and spatial feature approach to processing imagery.

Results from this work has been published on the World Bank website and featured on the Brookings website. This work builds upon previous research projects funded by NASA and the National Institutes of Health.


Previous Research

Funded by NASA

  • The Urban Transition in Ghana and Its Relation to Land Cover and Land Use Change Through Analysis of Multi-scale and Multi-temporal Satellite Image Data. Ryan Engstrom was funded by the NASA Interdisciplinary Science Program to study drivers of land cover change within the southern portion of Ghana including the city of Accra over a 25-year period (1986-2010). This was a collaborative project with San Diego State University (Doug Stow PI) and University of California, Santa Barbara and was funded for three years (2012-2015). Engstrom’s portion of the project focused on using regression and decision trees to map changes in both urban and rural areas using high and medium resolution satellite imagery. His work linked the changes in urban extant to different drivers of change throughout the region.

Funded by National Institutes of Health

  • Health, Poverty and Place: Modeling Inequalities in Accra, Ghana Using Remote Sensing and GIS. Ryan Engstrom and David Rain were funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to study inter-urban variability of health conditions in Accra, Ghana. The project was a five-year (2007-2012) collaboration with San Diego State University Geography (PI, John Weeks) and Harvard University to combine numerous health datasets with remotely sensed data to create a model for the interpretation of urban health inequalities in the city of Accra, Ghana. The ultimate goal was to develop methodologies in the data rich city Accra that could be used as templates for comparative analysis in other major developing world cities. The George Washington University's portion of the work focused on gathering information on neighborhoods on the ground in Accra, running focus groups, and integrating remotely sensed and GIS data. The team traveled to Ghana multiple times and spent numerous hours walking the streets of Accra. This has resulted in a new vernacular neighborhood map that covers the entire Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA) study area. The remote sensing work focused on using decision trees to map variations in vegetation, bare soil, and built up area within the city using Quickbird and Ikonos imagery from 2002, 2007 and 2010.