A Foray into GIS Instruction

After a week-long delay, caused by some difficulties coordinating with TI-U’s partner organizations, we are now nearing the completion of our second week of ArcGIS trainings. These trainings are divided into two sections, each of which meets twice a week for two hours, thus providing TI-U staff and its partners with a great deal of flexibility. This flexibility was a necessity given the hectic work schedules of training participants, many of whom divide their time between Kampala and frequent excursions into the field. As of right now, we are training nine individuals, four of whom are from TI-U, while the other five are divided between Citizen Watch-IT (election monitoring and social accountability) and Action for Development (women’s empowerment and advocacy).

So far, we have covered the basics of data visualization, and participants have been creating maps showing the spatial distribution of health aid throughout Uganda, as well as aggregating this information to the district or regional level. They have also gained some familiarity with raster data by using several datasets put out by HarvestChoice to incorporate information on poverty rates and population density into their maps. Participants gained a more intimate knowledge of the basics of spatial data by creating a geocoded dataset themselves, then importing this information into ArcGIS.


In the coming week, we will be working with ACLED’s conflict dataset and delving into the relationships between violence, poverty, and foreign aid. After this, participants will be crafting their own research questions and using the techniques that they have learned to draw out a compelling narrative. I will be assisting them in preparing the requisite datasets and in displaying information on a sometimes temperamental ArcGIS.

Beginning tomorrow, we will also be training Makerere University students working for the Resilient Africa Network, which conducts research that seeks to strengthen African communities against both natural and man-made stresses. While structurally similar to our other trainings, this particular partnership will culminate in a “Hackathon,” where teams of Makerere University students will compete to create the most powerful visualizations. When we met with them last week, they were enthusiastic about learning to display data using ArcGIS and I am excited to spend more time working with them.


  1. wjevans01 says:

    This sounds like a really cool program! Personally I am interested in learning GIS. Where did you learn GIS? Do you have any recommendations of classes to take at W&M or any resources (websites, videos, books) that I could use to help teach myself? Thanks!