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New way of measuring infrastructure development

Many social scientists have needed to include a measure of infrastructure or road density in their research. To do this, they have often used the Digital Chart of the World (DCW). For many reasons, this is problematic. To solve this problem, a new R package was created, called infra (available through CRAN).


It works by downloading map images from Google, Bing or OpenStreetMap (you decide which). It takes the file size of each image, and uses it as a proxy for the level of infrastructure development. As can be seen in the diagram below, the more complex the infrastructure, the greater the file size.

If you create a grid, and then find the file size for each cell in the grid, you can create an image like the one below.

This grid was 1300 cells wide by 660 cells tall, so the file sizes of 858,000 Google map images were determined to create this image.


This has the potential to create a more useful measure of infrastructure than that of the DCW.

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