Open Geospatial Data Sources

Open Geospatial Data Sources

The Ultimate Guide to Accessing the Geospatial Data You Need  

October 20, 20236 min read

Photo byClaudio Schwarz onUnsplash

In today's data-driven world, there are tons of geospatial data sources available. However, finding the right data for your specific needs can be daunting, especially if you are new to the field of geospatial technology. 

This article provides a comprehensive guide to open geospatial data sources, which offer a wealth of free and high-quality data for a wide range of applications.

Let’s get started!


  • What is Geospatial Data?

  • What is Open Data?

  • Open Geospatial Data Sources:

    • OpenStreetMap

    • Natural Earth Data

    • WorldPop Hub

    • Satellite Imagery Data Sources

    • Esri Open Data Hub


    • NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI)

  • Conclusion

  • Additional Resources

What is Geospatial Data?

Geospatial data is any data with a geographic component to it—data that can be tied to a specific location on the Earth's surface, either through coordinates or other spatial references. Geospatial data can include information on natural features (such as rivers, mountains, and forests), human-made features (such as roads, buildings, and cities), and demographic data (such as population density and income levels).

What is Open Data?

Open data is data freely available to anyone to use, reuse, and redistribute. This means that there are no restrictions on how you can use open data, and you are not required to pay for it. 

One of the best ways to get started with geospatial data is to leverage open data sources, as it allows you to access and use high-quality data without having to invest in expensive commercial datasets.

Open Geospatial Data Sources


OpenStreetMap is a collaborative project to create a free and open map of the world. It provides one of the most comprehensive and up-to-date geospatial datasets, and it is constantly being improved by a global community of volunteers.

How to Access OpenStreetMap Geospatial Data

Geofabrik is a platform that provides free and easy access to OpenStreetMap data. To access and download OpenStreetMap data for a specific region, simply visit here and select the continent and country of interest. Geofabrik offers a variety of data formats, including shapefiles, GeoJSON, and OSM XML.

What Kind of Geospatial Data is Available on OpenStreetMap?

OpenStreetMap data includes a wide range of geospatial features, such as roads, railways, buildings, water bodies, points of interest, and administrative boundaries. This data is highly versatile and can be used for a variety of tasks, such as navigation, mapping, and spatial analysis.

Natural Earth Data

Natural Earth Data is another open geospatial data source that provides high-quality data at a variety of scales (1:10 million, 1:50 million, and 1:110 million map scales). Natural Earth datasets are available in three levels of data themes (cultural, physical, and raster) for each scale.

  • The cultural data category includes administrative boundaries, populated places, roads, railways, airports, urban areas, parks, and protected areas of various countries, states, provinces, and counties.

  • The physical data category includes coastline, land, minor islands, reefs, ocean, rivers, lakes, glaciated areas, and bathymetry data.

  • The raster data category includes cross-blended hypsometric tints, natural earth 1 and 2, ocean bottom, shaded relief, gray earth, and manual shaded relief of contiguous US data.

How to Access Natural Earth Data

Natural Earth Data is a highly comprehensive data source and datasets are available for download here in a variety of formats, including shapefiles, GeoJSON, and PNG. To download data for a specific region, simply select the continent and country of interest. 

WorldPop Hub

WorldPop is another comprehensive open data hub that provides access to open spatial demographic and development data. WorldPop provides data on population density, age and sex structure, settlement growth, and other demographic variables. 

The image above shows the various data categories you can explore for data on WorldPop. WorldPop datasets are available to download for an individual country or a whole continent here. This is a valuable data source for spatial demographic data, especially population data.

Satellite Imagery Data Sources

In the geospatial industry, it is almost certain that you will use satellite data. What satellite imagery to use and where to access it depends on the kind of analysis you want to perform and the resolution of the imagery you need. 

There are a lot of satellite imagery data sources; they include USGS EarthExplorer, Google Earth, Sentinel Hub, and many others.

I have a detailed article on Free Satellite Imagery Data Sources where I discussed various satellite data sources, their uniqueness, pros, and cons. You should definitely check that out! If you need a guide on how to download free Landsat imagery on USGS EarthExplorer, here is a beginner-friendly tutorial for you.

Esri Open Data Hub

Esri Open Data Hub is another worthwhile data hub where you can access geospatial data. The Esri Open Data Hub is a repository of over 250,000 open geospatial datasets from over 5,000 organizations around the world.

Seeing how much open data is available, you can be sure to find the data you need on this comprehensive hub.

You can access various open datasets here, including Global Land Cover, Precipitation, Soil Data, and all kinds of geospatial data.

Esri Open Data Hub allows you to filter by content type (i.e. if you need data in shapefile, feature layer, csv, kml, and lots more), by source (i.e., if you need data uploaded by a specific body/organization), by last updated (i.e., if you need data compiled/uploaded in a specific timeframe), by categories (i.e., if you need environment data, boundaries data, transportation data, elevation data, and many more), by tags, by license, by region, and by sector. 

This filter option allows you to navigate to and access specific datasets you need easily, hence saving time.


FAOSTAT is a valuable data source if you need to work with food and agriculture data. The FAOSTAT data source provides free access to food and agriculture data for over 245 countries and territories from 1961 to the most recent year available. 

The image above shows the data categories you can explore and download on FAOSTAT. Explore the datasets here

One advantage of this data source is that, despite the data being collected from a variety of sources, all of the data on FAOSTAT is subject to rigorous quality control procedures to ensure that it is accurate and reliable. 

If you frequently use this kind of data, you can bulk download FAOSTAT data. 

NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI)

NOAA NCEI is the hub for environmental data. From weather data to climate and rainfall data. NCEI provides access to a wide range of data that spans various scientific disciplines, archive methods, naming conventions, file formats (CSV, shapefile, and netCDF), and governance strategies. 

You can simply search for the data you need or check out the featured datasets here

You can also filter your search by location and time.

The data accessed on the NOAA NCEI hub is collected from many different sources, and all these datasets are subject to quality control procedures to ensure that they are accurate and reliable.


In this article, we have been able to explore some of the most comprehensive geospatial data sources and portals. Now you know where to find various geospatial data for free. 

For a recap, you can access natural features, human-made features, and cultural datasets (administrative boundaries, roads, railways, buildings, rivers and waterways, points of interest (POIs), places, and towns) from OpenStreetMap and Natural Earth Data.

Population and demographic data are accessible on the Esri Open Data Hub and WorldPop Hub. 

NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) and Esri Open Data Hub provide access to Environmental Data: Weather, Climate, Rainfall, etc.

Food and Agriculture Data is accessible on FAOSTAT, and satellite data is accessible from various sources, which is extensively discussed here.

Now, you can explore these free data sources and get started with your geospatial projects and analysis.

Additional Resources

Free Satellite Imagery Data Sources

How to download Landsat Imagery from USGS EarthExplorer

Cover Image Credit:Claudio Schwarz onUnsplash

Do you know of other resourceful open data sources? Please share them in the comment section.

geospatialdatageospatial data sourcesopen data

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