GeoQuery reaches 10,000 dataset requests

GeoQuery, AidData’s flagship platform for creating customized geospatial datasets, today fulfilled its 10,000th data request.

April 3, 2019
Sarina Patterson, John Custer

Williamsburg, VA—GeoQuery, AidData’s flagship platform for creating customized geospatial datasets, today fulfilled its 10,000th data request.

GeoQuery is a platform that enables individuals and organizations without significant computing power or data science expertise to freely find and aggregate satellite, economic, health, conflict, and other spatial data into a single, simple-to-use spreadsheet file.

Since its beta launch in 2017, GeoQuery has fielded over 10,000 requests for customized datasets from 2600 users across approximately 750 organizations worldwide

AidData, a research lab at William & Mary’s Global Research Institute, last December received over $1 million from the Cloudera Foundation in a new partnership to scale up GeoQuery. Cloudera, Inc., a U.S.-based tech company that provides software platforms for machine learning and data analytics, formed the Cloudera Foundation in 2017 to identify large-scale opportunities and projects where the application of advanced data analytics and machine learning can change people’s lives for the better. AidData is one of the Cloudera Foundation’s first two grantees, and the partnership will enable GeoQuery to make geospatial data more accessible to those seeking to tackle the world’s greatest challenges.

Unlike most existing platforms, GeoQuery seeks to provides end users with data for their geographic areas of interest, requiring no previous knowledge or expertise with geospatial software. GeoQuery allows users to choose an administrative level for a country (for example, districts in Brazil) and then aggregate data to those geographic boundaries and get zonal statistics (measurements like the sum, average, minimum and maximum values)—a process that would otherwise require custom code or GIS software.

Once a request has been completed, users receive permanent links to access their customized data and documentation, enabling easy sharing of data. The code used and steps taken while preparing datasets and processing requests are publicly available, ensuring transparency and replicability.

“We envision a world where anyone can access cutting-edge data sources to advance their knowledge,” said Ariel BenYishay, AidData’s chief economist and director of research and evaluation. “Our partnership with the Cloudera Foundation is helping us to expand access to GeoQuery for a range of new actors throughout the developing world, from large international organizations to small grassroots nonprofits in places like Kenya or Cambodia. We ultimately want to catalyze more effective development choices in and for the world’s poorest populations,” said BenYishay.

With foundational investments from William & Mary, USAID, and the William & Flora Hewlett Foundation, GeoQuery already provides free and open source access to over 50 geospatial datasets, including nighttime lights, land cover, geocoded aid, and more. In the coming months, AidData and the Cloudera Foundation will work to build out GeoQuery’s infrastructure, capacity, and features; conduct external outreach and trainings; and provide for the addition of new datasets, such as new data on wind and solar power plants or CO2 satellite data.

To explore GeoQuery, visit For an overview of the technology and methods used by GeoQuery to process and manage geospatial data and user requests, see the article by GeoQuery’s data engineer, Seth Goodman, in Computers and GeoSciences.

Sarina Patterson is AidData's Communications Manager. 

John Custer is AidData's Deputy Director of Communications and Data Analytics.