Eleven student researchers from William & Mary and University of Texas-Austin deployed to Nepal, Uganda, Timor-Leste, Senegal, Haiti and Mexico this summer as AidData Summer Fellows. Embedded in local universities, civil society organizations, and research institutes, these fellows built capacity among local organizations to use the geocoded aid information produced by the AidData Center for Development Policy. Funded by USAID's Higher Education Solutions Network (HESN), the Center is a joint venture of the William & Mary, Brigham Young University, Development Gateway, the University of Texas at Austin and Esri.
Fellows held trainings in ArcGIS software and the geocoding methodology - applying precise geographic coordinates to the locations of aid activities. They also contributed to hackathons developing new applications leveraging AidData's geocoded datasets to meet local challenges. According to Emily Mahoney, her time as a summer fellow in Uganda was eye-opening to the practical value of geocoded aid information to solving real development challenges. "At AidData we always talk about how geocoding can inform policymaking by sparking important questions like why are certain project activities located in certain areas," Mahoney said. Speaking with local civil society members, Mahoney realized that "the value of geocoding doesn't exclusively lie in the location information. It's about creating data visualizations or simplifying complex information by coding data in a systematized manner. These visualizations convey information to people much faster."