Status Review of the Rural Access Index (RAI)

The Rural Access Index (RAI) was defined in 2005 as the proportion of the rural population living within 2 km of an all-season road.  Initial measurements of the RAI for 64 countries were published by the World Bank in 2006, but further systematic updates did not take place as had been intended.  In 2016, the same definition as the RAI was agreed for UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Indicator 9.1.1, requiring update of RAI data.  In response, ReCAP has supported work led by the World Bank to pilot updated GIS based techniques for measuring the RAI.  During the first quarter of 2018, a Status Review was carried out by Civil Design Solutions (CDS) to make recommendations to support achieving more rapid international progress with the updated measurement of the RAI.

Definition of the Rural Acces Index

The definition of the RAI is: the proportion of the rural population living within 2 km of an all-season road. The definition is illustrated in the graphic below. 


Details of the original definition and measurement of the RAI can be found in the World Bank report Rural AccessIndex: A Key Development Indicator (2006). 

Information about the UN Inter-agency and Expert Group on Sustainable Development Goals Indicators (IAEG-SDGs) can be found on the the IAEG-SDGs web page.

See the World Bank report Measuring Rural Access: Using new technologies (2016) for further details of the pilot measurements.

Project Objectives

The main objective of the Status Review was to assess international progress with the measurement of the RAI/SDG Indicator 9.1.1. and make recommendations to support more rapid and more extensive measurement of the RAI in the future.  For SDG Indicators the intention is that measurements should be carried out by at least 50% of all of the 193 UN countries at regular intervals.


The methodology followed for the Status Review was:

      • Review of key literature on the RAI and SDG Indicators;

      • Consultation with selected rural access specialists;

      • Visit to the World Bank;

      • Visits to the African Development Bank, the Asian Development Bank, and the Inter-American Development Bank;

      • Visits to Ethiopia, Uganda, Nepal and Bangladesh.  In each country meetings included government departments responsible for roads and the National Statistical Agency (NSO); and

      • An Interim Progress Statement was prepared and circulated to the full ReCAP mailing list with an open invitation for comments.

Specific issues that were considered included whether the original definition of the RAI from 2006 should be revised in any way, and whether the impact of motorcycles on rural access should be considered.


The key findings of the RAI Status Review were:

  • The RAI does not play a central role in the routine planning of developments to improve rural access, although some elements of the RAI concept are used.

  • The RAI is used as a progress or impact indicator for some development projects.

  • RAI/SDG Indicator 9.1.1 is a Tier III Indicator of the Sustainable Development Goals. In order to progress to Tier II, it is necessary to demonstrate how regular measurements will be carried out in a much larger number of countries.  Achieving Tier I status requires regular update of the RAI in at least 50% of the 193 UN countries.

  • The collection of RAI data has relied on support from development partners. If the data are to be updated regularly by a large number of countries, low cost methods of collecting and processing the data must be found.

  • Measurement of the RAI by household surveys is sufficiently accurate for an SDG indicator and the additional cost of including an extra question in routine household surveys is small.

  • The accuracy of GIS-based methods of calculating the RAI is dependent upon the accuracy of the input data sets. Population data are available from the WorldPop dataset or national population census, but current methods used by the World Bank to determine the "all-season" road network may lead to underestimating the RAI.

  • In the future, data from mobile phone movements might be used to show the actual roads and tracks actively used by transport services, with travel speeds used to indicate road condition. This may provide a more accurate assessment of rural mobility.



The key recommendations from the RAI Status Review were:

  • Retain the original definition of the RAI;

  • Prepare new Measurement Methodology Guidelines for the RAI;

  • Establish international coordination of future RAI measurements;

  • Allow an extra, alternative, country RAI measurement (for example including motorcycles); and

  • Consider the possibility of one or more additional, new, rural access SDG Indicator(s).

Project Resources and Reports

RAI Status Review, Inception Report, February 2018

RAI Status Review, Interim Progress Statement, March 2018

RAI Status Review, Final Report, May 2018

RAI Status Review presentation, May 2018

Consolidation, Revision and Pilot Application of the RAI, Inception Report, December 2018

Consolidation, Revision and Pilot Application of the RAI, Progress Report 1, May 2019

Consolidation, Revision and Pilot Application of the RAI, Progress Report 2, July 2019

Project team details

Robin Workman,
Kevin McPherson,