afrimapr: facilitating the use of spatial data in African public health operations and policy with reusable R software building blocks

Year of award: 2019


  • Dr Andy South

    Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, United Kingdom

Project summary

The afrimapr project will create software building blocks in R and learning resources to facilitate the use of spatial data in health and other applications in Africa. The project will promote these resources in Africa and beyond to initiate a community of users and developers to maintain and improve them. 

The R building blocks will make it easier to perform spatial data management tasks that should be straightforward but seldom are, including: summarising data by administrative regions of different levels; joining and displaying data referenced by administrative region names; access to environmental, socio-economic and health data, such as WorldPop, the Malaria Atlas Project and OpenStreetMap; and displaying data in static maps and interactive web applications. Components will be designed for ease of use to target new users of R. Focusing on Africa is a choice taken to promote usability. 

We will run workshops in Liverpool, Ethiopia, Malawi and South Africa trialling and promoting resources. By the end of the project there will be an R package accepted to the Comprehensive R Archive Network (CRAN) and the rOpenSci ecosystem. There will be an open source book describing how components can be used for entry level tasks with step-by-step reproducible instructions. There will be an evolving codebase on Github with a small but active community of users and developers. We will have collected examples of how users in Africa and elsewhere are starting to use the components. We will also have a business plan for how to sustain the project and resources.