Frequently asked questions

GRID3’s mission is to build spatial data solutions that make development goals achievable. GRID3 combines the expertise of partners in government, the United Nations, academia and the private sector to design adaptable and relevant spatial data solutions based on the capacity and development needs of each country. 

GRID3’s vision is to map a path to sustainable development for everyone.  By uniquely combining high-resolution data from censuses, satellites and enumeration with data modelling and capacity strengthening, GRID3 enables effective and sustainable applications of geospatial data for development.

GRID3 (pronounced GRID ‘three’) stands for Geo-Referenced Infrastructure Demographic Data for Development. The “3” refers to the three Ds in Demographic Data for Development. To leave no one behind, you must leave no one off the map. A lack of population data can render communities invisible and prevent them from receiving fundamental services and support.

Interested governments and their specialised agencies are encouraged to approach GRID3 with a request for assistance. Who GRID3 can ultimately support is based on a scoping mission and a needs assessment. GRID3 uses the following criteria to guide the country selection process:

  • Interest in GRID3 services: Are there any requests for GRID3 data layers and capacity strengthening?
  • Local Suitability: Is the GRID3 approach appropriate in this context?
  • Resource Analysis: What are the constraints and opportunities within a country?
  • Needs Prioritisation: How urgent are their needs compared to other priority countries?

GRID3 is currently active in Burkina Faso, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Ghana, Mozambique, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, South Sudan and Zambia. Scoping missions have taken place in additional countries.

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Geo-referenced population and housing censuses are the primary source of information for the number, distribution and characteristics of a population. They aspire to count every person in a defined territory at a given time. A population and housing census is an enumeration of the total population of a country and provides data on numbers of people, their spatial distribution, age and sex structure, their living conditions and other key socioeconomic characteristics. For more general information about census, please visit For details on the GRID3 approach to supporting censuses, please visit our census page here.

A hybrid method is a method that combines existing population and housing census data with gridded population estimates, to produce population counts for the entire country. For more information, please visit our census page here.

Planners need census information for all kinds of development work, including: assessing demographic trends; analysing socio-economic conditions; designing evidence-based poverty-reduction strategies; monitoring and evaluating the effectiveness of policies; and tracking progress toward national and internationally agreed development goals.

Census information also helps raise awareness about population issues among government decision-makers and the public at large. Additionally, a national census is often the only source of information for identifying forms of social, demographic or economic exclusion – such as inequalities by racial, ethnic, religious or other characteristics. The census also provides data on disadvantaged regions and vulnerable groups, such as the poor, the young, the old, people living with disabilities, and women and girls.

Censuses can empower local communities by giving them access to this critical data. And it can encourage participation in local decision-making by increasing knowledge of communities’ needs and by ensuring representation based on accurate numbers.

A traditional population and housing census requires mapping an entire country, deciding what technologies should be employed, mobilising and training legions of enumerators, conducting a major public awareness campaign, canvassing all households, collecting individual information, compiling hundreds of thousands – or millions – of completed questionnaires, monitoring procedures and results, and analysing, utilising and disseminating the results.

Though it is a very laborious and costly operation, it is a vital one. Only a census can provide the fine-grained and accurate data needed by analysts and policymakers to make informed, evidence-based development policies. It is recommended that a national census be conducted every 10 years to make comparable information available. A series of censuses allow experts to assess the past, describe the present and estimate for the future.

Census data is typically aggregated and released at various administrative levels. The boundaries of administrative units, however, are sometimes not conducive to planning. By converting census data into 100x100m grid cells, it can be calculated and analysed over the exact area needed and enhance the usability of census data. For more information about the method used to convert census data into grid cells, please read our top-down modelling approach here.

Censuses are conducted in “rounds.” The 2020 census round comprises censuses taking place between 2015 and 2024. It is recommended that a national census be conducted every 10 years to make comparable information available. During the years 2018-2021, more than 150 countries and territories are scheduled to conduct a census.