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9

Industry, innovation and infrastructure

Transport at the crossroads: remote rural areas and empty skies

Equal access to reliable transportation is necessary for development and key to equitable and sustained growth. It brings education, health services, and jobs within reach of all communities, expands access to local, regional, and global markets, and helps reduce poverty. To support economic development, SDG 9 focuses on high-quality, reliable, sustainable, and resilient regional and transborder infrastructure. SDG target 9.1 is about bringing affordable and equitable transport access to everyone.

Over the past few decades the pace of global travel has accelerated, and the movement of people and goods has made the world increasingly interconnected. Globally, journeys by air passengers increased from 1.7 billion in 2000 to more than 4.2 billion in 2018. Then the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 resulted in an abrupt decline in travel worldwide. Air traffic has been severely affected, and the pace of recovery remains uncertain.

Global air travel plunged by over 70 percent in April and May 2020

Total passenger flights, domestic and international

2020AprilJuly01M2M3M4M201920203.88M2.56M

Source: International Civil Aviation Organization & ADS-B Flightaware

In urban areas, where transport infrastructure is typically better than in rural areas, the focus for improvement is transportation quality, congestion, affordability, and equitable access. In rural areas, where transport infrastructure is more limited and in many cases highly inadequate (especially in low- and lower-middle-income countries), the primary goal is providing basic infrastructure such as roads. Without an all-season road—a road usable by motor vehicles year-round—people cannot access essential services and markets.

The Rural Access Index measures the proportion of people who live within 2 kilometres of an all-season road. This is generally considered a reasonable distance (equivalent to a 20–25 minute walk) to access economic activities and participate in social activities. Introduced in 2006, the index was initially calculated based on data from in-person interviews conducted as part of household surveys. The current methodology takes advantage of advances in technology and draws on a broader set of sources, including survey and road network data, which provide more accurate information on road network distribution and road quality. The index, available for over two dozen countries, measures access to sustainable transport for rural populations (SDG indicator 9.1.1).

In both Ethiopia and Nigeria more than 60 million people lack access to an all-season road

Rural Access Index value for access to an all-season road (most recent year available during 2009–18)

People with access% of rural population020406080100LebanonBangladeshJordanArmeniaIraqKenyaRwandaNepalUgandaParaguayLiberiaPeruSierra LeoneSomaliaNigeriaBurundiTanzaniaMalawiMaliEthiopiaMozambiqueLesothoZambiaMadagascar

Source: World Bank. 2019. Measuring Rural Access: Update 2017/2018. Washington, DC: World Bank Group; World Development Indicators (SP.RUR.TOTL)

Data sources for measuring the Rural Access Index

How can we calculate how many people in rural areas have access to a road in good condition? By answering three questions: Where do people live?; Where are the roads?; What is the quality of the roads?

The components of the Rural Access Index

Population density

Low

High

Eldoret

Meru

NAIROBI

Source: Worldpop. Blank areas have a population density less than 0.1 per cell of 100x100 m.

Population density

Low

High

Eldoret

Meru

NAIROBI

Source: Worldpop. Blank areas have a population density less than 0.1 per cell of 100x100 m.

Eldoret

Meru

NAIROBI

Source: Kenya Roads Board

Eldoret

Meru

NAIROBI

Source: GRUMP

Eldoret

Meru

NAIROBI

Eldoret

Meru

NAIROBI

Take Kenya as an example.

Information on the location of roads comes from sources such government databases, OpenStreetMap, satellite imagery​, and global positioning satellite data​.

For Kenya, the Kenya Roads Board carried out a Road Inventory Condition survey in 2018, for planning of road maintenance. The survey assessed the type of surface and the condition of approximately 420,000 road segments, covering almost 250,000 kilometres (155,000 miles).

Since the Rural Access Index measures road access for rural populations only, urban areas need to be excluded from the calculation. To separate urban from rural areas, data from the Global Rural-Urban Mapping Project are used.

The Rural Access Index is calculated at the county level in Kenya.

Let's zoom in on one county: Meru

Methodology for measuring the Rural Access Index

Calculating the Rural Access Index

Population density

High

Low

Meru

Source: Worldpop. Blank areas have a population density less than 0.1 per cell of 100x100 m.

Population density

High

Low

Total population

1,545,714

Meru

Source: Worldpop. Blank areas have a population density less than 0.1 per cell of 100x100 m.

Rural population

1,358,849

Meru

Source: Worldpop, GRUMP

Meru

Source: Kenya Roads Board

Meru

Source: Kenya Roads Board

Meru

Source: Kenya Roads Board

Meru

Meru

Meru

544,000

815,000

Meru

40

60

20

80%

Eldoret

Meru

NAIROBI

This is the county of Meru, in central Kenya.

According to the 2019 census, Meru has 1,545,714 inhabitants.

Urban areas are excluded from the Rural Access Index calculation. Approximately 1.36 million people live in the rural areas of this county.

These are all the roads in Meru.

The Rural Access Index estimates the number of people living less than 2 kilometers away from a good quality road. Road quality is measured in terms of road roughness or pavement strength.

Roads are generally considered acceptable if they have few cracks and potholes and can be used both in normal weather as well as in difficult weather conditions (for example, during the rainy season).

All paved road segments in good or fair condition and all other road types classified as being in good condition in the most recent Road Inventory Condition Survey are shown in this map.

These are the 2 kilometer areas along the good quality roads in Meru.

Urban areas are then excluded from these 2 kilometer zones.

To conclude the analysis, the population living in the buffer zones (excluding urban areas) is counted.

In total, about 815,000 people live within less than 2 kilometers from an all-season road. This is about 60 percent of the rural population, so Meru’s Rural Access Index value is 60.

This map shows Rural Access Index values for all counties in Kenya.

The index shows the range from areas that are well served by roads (where at least 80 percent of people are within 2 kilometers of a road) to areas that are relatively cutoff from the world (where at most 20 percent of people are within 2 kilometers of a road).

Many data challenges arise when calculating the Rural Access Index, particularly in poorer countries. While the location and quality of national roads are generally well monitored, data on secondary, tertiary, and unpaved roads are often sparse.More efforts and investment are needed to collect better data on road location and road quality so that countries can use the Rural Access Index to expand access to road networks.

Improved connectivity can result in higher agricultural and firm productivity, greater access to urban markets for producers,and more job opportunities. Good roads are also essential to allow people in rural areas to reach facilities such as schools, hospitals, and administrative services, and improving their overall standards of living.

Learn more about SDG 9: Industry, innovation, and infrastructure

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Growth in maritime transport can be indicative of the strength of economic performance and expanding trade relations. In recent years, container port throughput had continued to rise steadily, with China, United States, Singapore as world leaders in 2019.
Container port traffic (TEU: 20 foot equivalent units)
Container port traffic (TEU: 20 foot equivalent units)
Despite widespread 3G coverage, many people in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia are unable to access the internet
In Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, fewer than a fourth of all people currently use the internet, whereas in North America and Europe & Central Asia, more than 80 percent do. However, this has the potential to change rapidly as a result of advances in data networks technology and expanding access to smartphones.
Based on 2017-2018 available data

Notes

  1. World Bank. 2019. World - Measuring Rural Access: Update 2017/18. Washington, DC. Group.
  2. Roberts, Peter, K. C. Shyam, and Cordula Rastogi. 2006. “Rural Access Index: A Key Development Indicator.” Transport Papers TP-10. World Bank, Washington, DC.
  3. WorldPop
  4. Global Rural-Urban Mapping Project
  5. Road roughness is measured according to the International Roughness Index.
  6. World Bank. 2016. Measuring Rural Access: Using New Technologies. Washington, DC.
  7. Khandker, Shahidur, Zaid Bakht, and Gayatri Koolwal. 2009. “The Poverty Impact of Rural Roads: Evidence from Bangladesh.” Policy Research Working Paper 3875. World Bank, Washington, DC.
  8. Mu, Ren, and Dominique van de Walle. 2011. “Rural Roads and Local Market Development in Vietnam.” The Journal of Development Studies 47(5): 709–34.