Geographical Information Systems (GIS) data

The bulk of the data listed in this web site is national level time-series data, although subnational data is now being included when available. Most of this data can be made accessible for use in Geographical Information Systems by including it in the "attribute" file of a GIS shapefile.  This can often be done manually if the data is relatively small or by using database software. This is not a particularly complex task but explaining the process is beyond the scope of this website. However, during the past year or so, a lot of data has become available for download directly as GIS shapefiles which can be loaded directly into most GIS software.  This section will concentrate on sites which provide ready made shapefiles.

DIVA-GIS -- Provides shapefiles of administrative areas (usually two or three levels), as well as vector or raster files for inland water, roads, railroads, elevation, land cover and population.  The files are available for almost all countries (note that Sudan and South Sudan are not separated) . The downloads are available at

GADM-- The GADM Database of Global Administrative Areas provides downloads of country shapefiles with several layers of administrative areas.  The data can be downloaded by countries or in a single file for the whole world. The data is available for academic and non-commercial use.  The downloads are available at

Thematicmapping-- makes available a world map with country borders-- the attribute table includes ISO and UN country codes and other data, some of it rather dated (Sudan is not divided). Two versions of the shapefile are available at

Geofabrik -- Geofabrik provides shapefile downloads refreshed daily of selected data (roads, buildings, residential areas, etc.) for nearly all countries from Open Street Maps. Data is available at the country level as shapefiles for most developing countries as well as some smaller industrialized countries. Data for larger countries is often provided only at lower levels of administration--for example states or provinces.  The organization of data can be a bit  confusing. For example, the main menu allows you to select country  data for individual continents by clicking on the continent name. If you click on Africa you will find a list of files for each country with a shapefile.  If you click on North America you will find no shapefile for Canada or the US but shapefiles for all individual US states-- to find the shapefiles for the individual provinces of Canada, you must however select by clicking on Canada. The same rules apply to the other continents. Note that mapping on Open Street Maps is done by volunteers and the completeness of coverage--particularly in rural areas-- varies from country to country. The main menu is at at .

FEWS NET -- FEWS NET provides country-level shapefiles of Livelihood zones for some 35 countries and regional Food Insecurity Mapping shapefiles (three or four time a year). It also provides data on food price levels, rainfall and other data at regular intervals. The shapefiles are available at .This page includes links to other data.

The DHS Program Spacial Data Repository -- On this web page the USAID financed Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) program provides shapefiles at the subnational level of summary data from it's many surveys carried out in developing countries. The data and times of coverage vary from country to country and by type of survey. It can include nutritional data, demographic, HIV/AIDS data and other data. The data can be downloaded  at .

The Humanitarian Data Exchange -- This website put together by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) provides a collection of shapefiles, data sets, blogs, videos and other information-- all related in some way to humanitarian affairs. The collection is searchable. The website is at .

World ResourcesInstitute (WRI) -- WRI provides data on a wide range of resource issues. The data includes reports, data and maps in various formats. Many of the individual project reports include shapefiles-- but it is necessary to check the reports themselves to determine what type of data can be downloaded. The main link for data is One particularly useful set of shapefiles on water is included in the "Aquaduct" project reports--there are several of these reports and they usually include both spreadsheet data and shapefile downloads-- the shapefile package usually includes a pdf file which explains the data.There are many "Aquaduct" projects with shapefiles in the group "Maps". (Note that some downloads require filling in a request form to access the file.)

US National Weather Service -- This page contains links to shapefiles and raster files for weather data for both the United States and other parts of the world.  Definitions for the shapefile codes can be found in a text file as part of the shapefile package. The site is available at

Copyright 1998/2017 GRI    Updated 22 May 2017