Unplanned settlements kigali laterite
Case study

High frequency data for unplanned settlements

Using data to understand Kigali’s unplanned settlements


As a result of rapid growth, 79% of Kigali’s population lives in unplanned areas.

While the City of Kigali is working to upgrade unplanned settlements and explore cost-effective ways to improve service provision in these areas, information on residents of unplanned settlements has been limited to date. Unplanned settlements are also difficult to study, because they are by nature always changing.


Laterite, with the City of Kigali and the International Growth Centre (IGC), designed and piloted a study to track a dynamic and representative sample of citizens in unplanned settlements on key indicators including employment, houseing, mobility, and migration patterns.

First, Laterite developed a representative panel of residents in Kigali’s unplanned settlements using GIS mapping to sample residents. The use of panels is common practice in market research in large markets, but has never been used before in Rwanda for policy purposes.

Next, Laterite used high-frequency data collection through a mix of face-to-face and SMS surveys to track residents over several months.

The use of high-frequency SMS surveys to inform policy decisions is a first in Rwanda.

High-frequency data collection is suitable for unplanned settlements which are constantly changing. More than just a snapshot, this approach gives policy makers dynamic insights into the characteristics and living conditions of people in these areas over a period of time. The data was made available to the city in an online dashboard, for policy makers to track.


Laterite collected high frequency and high-resolution data on the situation of residents in unplanned settlements in Kigali. The data we collected focused on employment, housing, mobility, migration and basic service provision (water, electricity, garbage collection, sanitation).

This study showed that high-frequency SMS surveys and targeted panels can become useful data collection tools for the City of Kigali. These tools can be used for a range of other applications, such as to collect feedback on the quality of services or on disaster management.

You can read more in our policy brief, and the final report is available on the IGC’s website.