The DHS Program API: A Cornerstone of Inclusion

Written by: Blue Raster

29 Mar, 2023

What is an Application Programming Interface (API)? 

 An Application Programming Interface (API) is a way for computers to communicate with each other by providing a common set of language for connecting systems. The DHS Program Indicator Data API simplifies access to the robust database of 35+ years of DHS Program data from 90+ countries.

How does the API simplify access to DHS Program data?  

  1. Imagine that DHS Program survey datasets are a forest of trees. Each dataset contains each anonymous respondent’s answers to the questions asked during that specific survey. 
  2. The Indicator database is like the lumber mill, where raw materials of different shapes, varieties, and sizes are transformed into commonly used formats, like a 2”x4”. The Indicator database transforms DHS Program datasets into standardized indicators.
  3. The DHS Program Indicator Data API is the hardware store or lumber yard where you can browse the available indicators, get a sample of what you might want, and then select it in any quantity you choose.
  4. You take the material you selected and build your masterpiece! With The DHS Program Indicator Data API, you can build applications using DHS Program data to suit your data needs.

How is the Application Programming Interface (API) a cornerstone of inclusion? 

A central pledge contained in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is to ensure that no one is left behind. USAID defines inclusive development as the “concept that every person, regardless of their identity, is instrumental in transforming their societies.” An important aspect of inclusion is ease of access to information, especially for marginalized groups.  

The Indicator Data Application Programming Interface serves as the cornerstone of digital inclusion by removing barriers to data access. The DHS Program Indicator Data API is freely open to anyone in the world without need of a login, credential, or authentication. All you need is an idea and a computer and you can tap into the vast and vital resource that is The DHS Program data.  

The Indicator Data API further fosters inclusion by making DHS Program data usable by as many people as possible. While The DHS Program develops standard dissemination materials to share survey results, these materials may not meet the needs of all data users. For example, data tables with many cells, like those in survey Final Reports, can pose problems for assistive technologies like screen readers. The DHS Program Indicator Data API allows users to access those data in a format that is convenient for them. Moreover, the API lets users choose the indicators they are most interested in and lets them visualize or analyze those data however they choose. Thus, the Indicator Data API gives everyone, regardless of their identity, the insights from DHS Program data to improve health and wellbeing. 

How does The DHS Program use the API? 

The DHS Program is not only the creator of the API but is also a client! You may have used the Indicator Data API when accessing other DHS Program tools without even knowing it.

  • When you create a map of Subnational data on Children Stunted in Ghana using STATcompiler, you use the Indicator Data API to receive the data values for corresponding regions on the map of Ghana.
  • When you visit the Malaria Topics Page on The DHS Program website, the Indicator Data API supplies the data for the charts and tables of common malaria indicators you can browse quickly.
  • When you download a GIS formatted dataset from the Spatial Data Repository….you guessed it… the Indicator Data API supplies the data for files contained in the download so you can make your own map and run your own analysis of DHS Program data.

Whenever and wherever you see DHS Program data in these sites- and many others around the web- the data are being supplied via The DHS Program Indicator Data API. 

How do you use the API? 

We at Blue Raster and The DHS Program encourage you to check out the API and see what YOU can do with it! We are here to help you, please reach out by emailing to continue the conversation! 

Read documentation to learn how to access DHS Program data and make queries to obtain what you need using The DHS Program API.

Watch these 2 YouTube videos to learn what the API does and how to find an indicator ID and get data:

And for the more advanced users, see this great example of community API tools, created by dedicated API users Oliver Watson and Jeff Eaton for using the API to assist with finding detailed survey datasets. 


  • Blue Raster is extremely proud of our 15+ year partnership with The DHS Program. Sharing data through applications, graphics and data downloads via free and open systems is central to the mission of Blue Raster.

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Anthropometry measurement (height and weight) is a core component of DHS surveys that is used to generate indicators on nutritional status. The Biomarker Questionnaire now includes questions on clothing and hairstyle interference on measurements for both women and children for improved interpretation.