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Open Access Highly Accessed Open Badges Research

Free and simple GIS as appropriate for health mapping in a low resource setting: a case study in eastern Indonesia

Rohan P Fisher* and Bronwyn A Myers

Author Affiliations

Charles Darwin University, Darwin, Northern Territory 0909, Australia

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International Journal of Health Geographics 2011, 10:15  doi:10.1186/1476-072X-10-15

Published: 25 February 2011



Despite the demonstrated utility of GIS for health applications, there are perceived problems in low resource settings: GIS software can be expensive and complex; input data are often of low quality. This study aimed to test the appropriateness of new, inexpensive and simple GIS tools in poorly resourced areas of a developing country. GIS applications were trialled in pilot studies based on mapping of health resources and health indicators at the clinic and district level in the predominantly rural province of Nusa Tenggara Timur in eastern Indonesia. The pilot applications were (i) rapid field collection of health infrastructure data using a GPS enabled PDA, (ii) mapping health indicator data using open source GIS software, and (iii) service availability mapping using a free modelling tool.


Through contextualised training, district and clinic staff acquired skills in spatial analysis and visualisation and, six months after the pilot studies, they were using these skills for advocacy in the planning process, to inform the allocation of some health resources, and to evaluate some public health initiatives.


We demonstrated that GIS can be a useful and inexpensive tool for the decentralisation of health data analysis to low resource settings through the use of free and simple software, locally relevant training materials and by providing data collection tools to ensure data reliability.