Satellite imagery is among the most powerful open data. The Defense Meteorological Satellite Program captures images of the earth just after dusk every night–and it’s been doing so for over 20 years. Working with the World Bank and the University of Michigan, we’ve extracted and organized the data from every night for the past two decades in all of India’s 600,000 villages.

These six billion data points[1] that power India Night Lights tell a rich story of India’s urban development and electrification from 1992-2012. The data is complex and hard to work with. But from the chaos emerges real insights, such as role of politics in service provision and the the impact of state funded electrification projects.

interact with 20 years of nighttime lights for 600,000 villages

The India lights explorer is the first of its kind, but more countries will roll out soon. The software that powers the Night Lights API and the Night Lights Data Explorer is all available on github.

  1. Those checking our math at home, some villages have multiple readings per night.

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