Urban Informatics Lab

The Urban Informatics Laboratory (UIL) at the Indian Institute for Human Settlements carries out research and analysis on India’s urbanisation using primary and secondary data. The Lab specialises in developing new methods to study and understand urban patterns. It innovates in data creation, collection and organization, as well as in bringing in diverse methods for urban problem-solving. It applies its learnings through research, policy, and practice projects across multiple thematic areas such as employment, economic development, social protection, food systems, land markets, housing, environmental sustainability, health, and inequality. The Lab also offers capacity building, teaching and training on urban data analysis for a range of learners across levels. The long-term aim of the Urban Informatics Lab (UIL) is to build a space for researchers and practitioners working on Indian cities to create, analyse, and disseminate data related to urbanisation, as well as to develop novel methods for data-scarce environments.




  • PEAK Urban (2019-2022)
    The PEAK Urban programme, through its partnership with five renowned academic institutions produced new research to aid decision making in contemporary cities. The UIL contributed to PEAK research on Mapping Bangalore’s Industrial Transformation, Metropolitan and Land-Based Financing and Spatial Inequalities in Bangalore. As part of this work, the UIL has assembled detailed datasets of economic activity, land prices, and other socio-demographic variables at an intra-city scale for Bangalore. The UIL was also involved in curating an exhibition titled Nakshe Kathe | Becoming Bangalore: Maps, Stories in January 2020. It examines the city’s multiple intersecting transitions over the past 150 years, illustrating the changes in its lakes and water bodies, its economic and industrial transition, and the expansion of transport infrastructure.


  • Hungry Cities Partnership: Informality, Inclusive Growth and Food Security in Cities of the Global South (2018-2021)
    The UIL, as part of the Hungry Cities Partnership, was involved in a 4-year project on the study of urban food systems, specifically on food insecurity, the informal food economy and its governance in Bengaluru. The team carried out 2 large scale primary surveys; the first on household food insecurity and the second on the functioning of informal food enterprises. Further, an ethnographic study on technology-enabled food supply chains and the traditional mandi system revealed the increasing move to privatization of food supply and distribution and the impact on farmer’s role and earnings in this context. Research findings from this project have been published in and featured in several popular media outlets (see the “publications” section for details). A multimedia exhibition titled, ‘Oota Aytha? A study of food vending in Bengaluru’ examining the diverse business setups of informal food businesses and how they operated in the city was also held in September 2019.


  • High-resolution mapping of population and other demographic and socioeconomic indicators (2020 – Present)
    In collaboration with the Geospatial Lab at IIHS, the UIL is developing statistical and machine learning models to extract information from remote sensing data and use it to enhance the spatial and temporal resolution of socioeconomic data sets like the Census of India. Such models are now available for Bengaluru and Mumbai. These methods are being used in the context of two projects – India Data Cube and India Flood Monitoring and Impact Assessment Portal. The computational infrastructure for these projects is supported by AWS GEO Cloud Credit Programme and GEO-Microsoft Planetary Computer Programme respectively.


  • Examining paid and unpaid domestic work in urban homes (2021-22)
    This International Labour Organisation (ILO) project examines the balance of paid and unpaid domestic work across urban homes belonging to different socio-economic backgrounds. This brings together under-researched demand-side drivers of domestic work with supply side factors. The study covered patterns of domestic work in Bengaluru and Chennai. The team at UIL was involved in collection of primary data by multiple rounds of large-scale surveys in the two cities, analysing findings from the collected data and building models for further understanding the realities of domestic and caregiving work.


  • Child Nutrition Patterns from National Family Health Survey (NFHS) (2021 – Present)
    This study focusses on regional variations in stunting in children under five within Karnataka using the NFHS-4 and NFHS-5 data. One of the preliminary findings was that stark regional differences continue to exist even when factors such as caste, wealth and rural-urban are controlled for. Findings from this study were presented as ‘Stunting under five: looking at intra-state variation across Karnataka’ at an IFPRI-POSHAN webinar in October 2021. As a future direction to this study, the team has plans to survey the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) infrastructure.


  • UKRI-GCRF (Re)Thinking the Off-Grid City (2020-23)
    This project aims to reframe infrastructure planning, governance and participation in various city contexts to better support the lives of its most marginalised residents. This research examines the interactions between five types of infrastructure assemblage: energy, water, sanitation, transport and communication. The UIL team has been involved in city-level analysis and fieldwork in Bengaluru.


  • Population Projection for 2050 by Gender and Age (2021-22)
    With the larger objective of trying to project population at the city/ Urban Agglomeration level for 2050, by gender and age, the UIL has predicted Age Specific Fertility Rates till 2050. As the next step, the team plans to combine the findings thus far with other factors such as mortality rates and migration to arrive at district-level projections.


  • Financial Feasibility Study of In-Situ Slum Redevelopment (2019-21)
    Using a probabilistic simulation model, UIL researchers analysed the financial feasibility of In-situ Slum Redevelopment projects. The model assessed factors that affect profitability of capital-led redevelopment projects using extensive data collected for 1000s of slums across multiple cities.


  • How Urban is India? (2019)
    How does the choice of metrics affect the understanding of “urban India?” How is the ‘urban’ defined and calculated? How has its definition changed over time and in turn, transformed particular places? UIL’s analysis and recommendations around these were presented to MoHUA in a meeting of experts.



The UIL has provided data analysis and research inputs for a number of live projects and practice-based work within IIHS and other institutions and multilateral organisations. The key projects are listed below.


  • Rajasthan Chief Minister’s Economic Transformation Advisory Council (CMETAC) (2021-22)
    The CMETAC commissioned IIHS to conduct a study on the ease of work and living for urban informal workers in the state of Rajasthan. As part of this, the team has been involved in creating a framework and a set of policy recommendations to the state government. In addition, the UIL has carried out an estimation of the informal workforce of Rajasthan using the NSS and PLFS datasets, as well as detailed out a set of recommendations on the implementation of data systems for the state.


  • Asian Development Bank (ADB) – Bengaluru Metro Rail Corporation Ltd. (BMRCL) Transport Oriented Development (TOD) (2021-Present)
    This ADB driven practice project is to provide technical assistance support to Government of Karnataka to achieve a strategic shift towards low carbon modes in Bengaluru, as well as enhanced liveability and economic productivity, and enablement of safety, gender and social inclusiveness of public transport in Bengaluru. This project is in collaboration with other external partners. As part of preparing the TOD and multi modal integration (MMI) plans for Phase 2 and 2A of the Namma Metro Project, the team is currently working on spatial analysis of on-ground conditions and reviewing applicable policies.


  • NITI Aayog – ADB study on ‘Cities as Engines of Growth’ (2021-22)
    The UIL contributed towards the NITI Aayog – ADB study “Cities as Engines of Growth”, for strengthening broad based urban development in a chosen set of seven states.
  • Real Estate Regulation and Development Act (RERA) Data Analysis (2022)
    UIL collaborates with the Practice team at IIHS to study the performance of the RERA and its impact on urban growth in Indian cities.



  • Andhra Pradesh Capital Committee project (2014)
    The UIL and the GSL provided technical support to the Sivaramakrishnan Committee for recommending the location of a capital for the newly formed state of Andhra Pradesh. The team created a narrative of regional economic development for the state of Andhra Pradesh using geo-spatial analysis of infrastructure systems, demographic analysis, economic analysis of output, employment, and investment, and an assessment of climate-related risks.


  • Identifying Locations of High-Intensity Economic Agglomeration in Odisha – World Bank (2014)
    This project was carried out for the World Bank, that was requested by the state government of Orissa to identify locations of high intensity economic agglomerations in the state. The project consists of a set of quantitative and geospatial analyses of urban expansion, economic activity, investment and employment patterns within the state using multiple data sources.


  • Tamil Nadu Urban Livelihoods Mission
    The UIL analysed results from a survey conducted by the Commissionerate of Municipal Administration, Government of Tamil Nadu, to assess the situation of homelessness in Madurai Corporation in preparation for the forthcoming launch of the Tamil Nadu Urban Livelihoods Mission.  The UIL prepared a report based on their survey data, which involved analytical and data visualisation work.


  • Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan, Rajasthan
    The UIL team worked on creating visualisations on settlement structure, demographic characteristics and access to amenities at the village level for four districts – Pali, Rajsamund, Ajmer and Bhilwara in Rajasthan. It used the PCA 2001 and 2011 and point locations from the UIL Data Repository.




Monographs and Reports


Journal Articles




Other Writing


Data Sets

  • Secondary Data Archive: a collection of data that has been sourced from various Indian public sources like the Census of India, the National Sample Survey, Ministry of Commerce, and the Annual Survey of Industries, and made available to researchers within IIHS and from associated institutions. All data has been converted to commonly used data formats and indexed into the IIHS Library indexing methodology.
  • Indian Settlements Point Locations Database: a dataset that maps all the inhabited settlements (urban and rural) in India. This allows us to visualise demographic and socio-economic data about settlements at various levels of geographical aggregation. This unique dataset has been developed using settlement listings from the Census of India.
  • Ward Level Database: The Census of India in 2014 publicly released data related to housing and access to amenities at the ward level for all Indian cities. UIL has an archive of demographic and housing data at the sub-city scale. The team has also acquired ward level digitised maps for 18 cities across the country.
  • Economic Census Data at the National Level: National-level data from the Sixth Economic Census aggregated by National Industrial Classification (NIC) three-digit codes for each state is available with the UIL. This data has been merged with the district census data to add specific district level information. Appropriate industry code description at 2-digit and 3-digit are also available.
  • Enterprises at the Enumeration Block Level for BBMP, Bangalore: For Bangalore the UIL has mapped enterprises at the Enumeration Block level. This is a novel dataset created by combining information from the Economic Census and the Common Business Register for 2013. It contains both large and small enterprises, covering both formal and informal work. This dataset has been used in practice projects at IIHS to evaluate transport infrastructure and other development around economic corridors. A series of interactive plots have also been created using this economic data for Bangalore and are available with the UIL.


Data Visualisation and Interactive Data Applications

  • Migration Dashboard: An interactive data visualisation and exploration portal highlighting patterns from the Census data on migration was built and is being expanded to include more information.
  • Topo App: The team designed and developed a web-app for comparing 1950’s topographical maps published by the US Army Topographic Command, sourced from the Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection of the University of Texas [link: http://www.lib.utexas.edu/maps/ams/india/] to current physical maps.
  • Slum Profile Dashboards: The team developed an application to visualise Census of India slum data for the Karnataka Affordable Housing Policy and Slum Development Policy.
  • Bengaluru traffic visualisation: The team visualised Bengaluru’s traffic using images of Google’s traffic maps.


The UIL has been actively engaged in teaching quantitative skills, including numeracy, data analysis and research methods for a variety of learners including state and city government officials, private sector employees, non-profit sector employees and students from various backgrounds.

  • Urban Fellows Programme: The UIL offers modules on quantitative analysis for urban research and practice as part of the skill labs during the fellowship. The Lab offers courses on both basic and advanced data analysis as well as data visualisation. These courses build basic skills in statistical software, while also teaching statistical concepts and introducing learners to secondary datasets such as the Census of India, National Sample Survey Office, National Family Health Survey and Economic Census. UIL also offers advanced electives in survey data analysis and urban data case studies. Multiple fellowship projects have also been guided by the UIL, exposing the Fellows to applying quantitative thinking in their disciplines.
  • Urban Practitioners’ Programme: In partnership with the Urban Practitioners’ Programme at IIHS, the UIL has conducted several in-person and online training and capacity building sessions covering quantitative research methods, primary data collection, public data sets, and policy evaluation. Many of these courses and workshops include hands-on training of exploratory data analysis, inferential statistics and data visualisation using tools like Excel, Stata, R and Tableau. Organisations that participated in UIL training sessions recently include Centre for Internet and Society, AIGGPA Bhopal, and GIZ.