Transportation networks represent the economic arteries of countries and regions. In Africa the poor quality of transportation networks and infrastructure -- roads, rail, navigable rivers and water bodies, and air transport -- is widely acknowledged as a major obstacle to economic development. What's more, information on existing infrastructure, including type (is a road two-lane or four-lane?) and quality (is the road all-weather or seasonal?), is both limited and difficult to integrate in a consistent way across countries.
To address this information gap, collective action approaches by the research and development community are being rapidly enhanced by new “crowd sourcing” methods (for example, see OpenStreetMap). HarvestChoice uses data on infrastructure in a number of ways, primarily to assess the physical accessibility of markets and service providers to farm households. HarvestChoice is compiling and harmonizing transport network data as part of our work to generate new information on transport costs, market access and the potential attractiveness of new farming practices, technologies and livelihoods. Along with transportation, we also compile information on other important infrastructure such as border crossings, ports, areas equipped for irrigation and, increasingly, the location of markets where price data are routinely collected.