Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Secondary City (2C)?

2Cs are the fastest growing urban areas in developing countries, experiencing unplanned growth and development. These cities are unique environments that have generally been poorly mapped with limited data and information on infrastructure, land tenure, and planning. A secondary city is not only defined by population, size, function, and economic status, but by the neighboring and/or distant cities and their socio-economic status. The population of a secondary city may range between 10-50% of the country’s largest city. 2Cs are urban centers providing critical support functions for governance, transportation and production services. A secondary city may emerge from a cluster of smaller cities in a metropolitan region or may be the capital city of a province, state, or second-tier administrative unit within a country.


Mapping 2Cs for Resiliency and Emergency Preparedness builds local capacity in using open source geospatial technologies to collect important data needed for urban planning and integrated resource management, strengthens local capacity through international partnerships, and creates new data in secondary cities that are frequently data-poor, under-resourced, and lagging behind in the provision of infrastructure and essential services. Mapping these cities is an essential activity in building resiliency and devising robust emergency management plans. Core elements of the 2C project are:

  1. U.S. Embassy outreach to identify city governments for mapping and imagery analysis partnerships. Working with the twelve regional US Environmental, Science, Technology and Health (ESTH) hubs across the globe, this project facilitates the generation of digital data necessary for planning for urban sustainability
  2. Long term engagement with partners to build capacity for continued geospatial data development in situ
  3. Utilization of high resolution satellite imagery for mapping and analysis
  4. Engagement tools that include ESRI’s ArcGIS and other open source geospatial tools for data generation, analysis, and modeling.

Who are the 2C partners?

The 2C project partners come from private and public sectors and are both local and international. The Humanitarian Information Unit (HIU) within the Office of the Geographer of the U.S. Department of State currently partners with the American Association of Geographers (AAG) , Colorado State University (CSU), EcoCity Builders, and Kathmandu Living Labs. Partners have different levels of responsibility including project implementation and project support, coordination and management. In addition, the Secondary Cities project is continually procuring new partners, as developing cities learn of the initiative and express formal interest and demonstrate local commitment. The 2C project has established a partnership with Esri, emphasizing the of strength of public-private partnership. Esri is providing software licenses for University partners across all 2C projects, which are also using ArcGIS Online for data sharing.

Where are Secondary Cities?

Secondary Cities are located in South America, Eastern Europe, Africa, and Asia. Current Secondary Cities include Cuzco, Peru; Medellin, Colombia; Kharkiv, Ukraine; and Pokhara, Nepal. New Secondary Cities include Mekelle, Ethiopia and Denpasar on the island of Bali in Indonesia. Each city faces different needs as well as natural and social challenges that will impact its future planning, growth and sustainable development. The needs and challenges will drive the type of technology implemented as well as the data generation, analysis and visualization process.

Which tools and technologies will be utilized?

Project partners use an array of appropriate open source mapping tools and technologies. Open source mapping tools and technologies may be in the form of applications (apps), software programs, and data collection and visualization devices. Open source mapping provides an interface and a platform for interested citizens who have devices that can access the internet to search, collect, manipulate, download and upload, and analyze public geospatial data (geographic coordinates, aerial photography, satellite imagery, surveys, data that come from global positioning system devices, etc.) for a multitude of mapping activities, data generation, data management, data sharing, field data collection, and global positioning systems whether for resource planning and management, to tell a story, or to help in humanitarian efforts, among other purposes. In an open source environment, the results, usually visualizations of maps, are also public and can be shared between individuals and organizations, independent of their location and time zone. There are five general categories of tools and technologies:

  1. GIS platforms (eg. ArcGIS Online, QGIS, etc.)
  2. remote sensing analysis (eg. Orfeo ToolBox, etc.)
  3. field data collection (eg. Field Papers, Survey123, KoBoToolbox, ikeGPS, etc.)
  4. data management and dissemination (eg. GeoNode, WorldMap, ArcGIS Open Data, etc.)
  5. data visualization and communication (eg. CartoDB, Urbinsight, etc.)
2C project and partners support any one or combination of open source and proprietary geospatial tools and technologies.

Why is open source mapping useful?

The importance of open source mapping for this project is to help data-poor, underdeveloped and rapidly growing cities build their capacity by enlisting local efforts and initiatives to locate and generate data in collaboration with their municipalities through scientific rigor (preserve data integrity, enforce data collection and storage standards, long-term data maintenance). The public will be able to access data in order to facilitate community and neighborhood projects that fall within the municipal jurisdiction but outside of the available financial resources. Together with our international and local partners, the Secondary Cities project assesses the appropriate open source tools and technologies to enhance the local technical capacity and fulfill the preferences, needs and challenges of each city.