Getting Started at Kathmandu University

It’s almost been a full week here in Kathmandu, Nepal, and Carleigh Snead (’15) and I have started working out the summer schedule for our work at Kathmandu University. Our work space is located at the cozy School of Arts campus, a smaller wing of Kathmandu located right outside the urban center of Patan. On one of our first days, Carleigh and I spent some time browsing the facilities. The School of Arts has a computer lab (where we will soon be installing ArcGIS), a library, plenty of office space and classrooms, and my personal favorite, a small canteen! I feel pretty lucky having such a great campus to work at this summer.

As we were looking through the library, we were really impressed by the collection. The School of Arts campus houses the Department of Development Studies (directed by our host Doctor Sharma) so many of the books were related to development in Nepal. We even saw some introductory guides on GIS. It seemed like there were so many resources we could use for our own research all in one place. It makes sense that Kathmandu University had such great interest in AidData’s development finance research. After a day or so of casual browsing and introduction to the staff and faculty, Carleigh and I prepared for our introduction of this summer’s professional goals.

The first introduction was closed to the faculty of Kathmandu University, and most of the professors worked at the School of Arts. I gave a general introduction to some of AidData’s resources and services (more than just a database!) while Carleigh explained Nepal’s Aid Management Platform (AMP) and the potential of data visualization. The professors were all very vocal about their questions and concerns. Some were really excited about the idea of comparing sub-national geospatial data on aid projects with other variables of interest, such as poverty head counts or areas of conflict. Other professors questioned the methodology and asked how we are able to ensure accurate reporting, especially when many non-DAC donors do not comply with reporting procedures. For the most part, most of the faculty seemed very excited that AidData provides sub-national data on development finance. Dean Banskota, who has had much experience researching development, told me that quality information in international aid was virtually non-existent for many years.

Carleigh Snead and Sara Rock introduce AidData at Kathmandu University

Carleigh Snead and Sara Rock introduce AidData to Kathmandu University faculty, June 2, 2013

After the introduction, it seemed like many of the professors saw potential in AidData’s research and methodology. The faculty seemed even more inspired by the uses of GIS mapping tools. Some of the professors were asking us how they could apply GIS to research in other fields. One grad student approached us about how to use GIS to map his research on food insecurity in rural regions of Western Nepal. Even the School of Arts financial coordinator asked us how she could use GIS for her thesis in Finance. Turns out, Esri has its own page on just that! Even if we’re here to focus on GIS in the context of Development Finance, it was pretty amazing to see professors think of so many different uses for GIS software.

There is a lot of enthusiasm here at Kathmandu University for the type of methodology and services we have to offer. Now comes the hard part of planning out the summer curriculum! Still, even after only a few days I can see how having a fellow embedded in a host country is helpful to facilitating the use of AidData’s research for these institutions. There is definitely a lot of potential for this summer in Kathmandu!


  1. I think this will be a great project, and I can’t help but think that some applied anthropolgy would make this even better!

  2. Those were the days! Is there anything you guys would have changed about the presentation, taking into account what you know now?