Since the economic reforms in the late 80’s, the Lao PDR has been experiencing steadily increasing and continuous economic growth. Apart from economic changes, such growth also brings about important changes in the way people sustain their livelihoods and how they go about their daily lives.
However, since these changes are not the same throughout the whole territory of the Lao PDR and as some places change more rapidly than others, the problems and potentials for development in the Lao PDR may become more heterogeneous.
The Government of the Lao PDR in cooperation with international development partners is committed to support and guide these changes through adequate policies and decision-making. It thereby aims not only at balancing economic objectives with social and environmental goals, but also wants to take into account the needs and potential of the different regions.
Therefore, decisions must be based on knowledge of the development processes going on in different places of the country and of the expected consequences of future policies and decisions.
The Lao PDR through its Department of Statistics (DOS) of the Ministry of Planning and Investment has made considerable progress in collecting and compiling statistical data.
The latest National Population and Housing Census, carried out in March 2005, presents the most recent data covering the totality of Lao households.
The results include a wide range of important statistics, which have been analysed and presented in aggregated tabular form and through a series of reports.
So far few attempts have been made to spatially represent and analyse this data, in order to make the results more readily accessible to researchers and policy makers.
This has now become possible through a close collaboration with the Lao National Mekong Committee Secretariat (LNMCS) and the Swiss National Centre of Competence (NCCR) North-South with invaluable support from the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC).
This fruitful and innovative partnership between Lao institutions and the further expansion to include Swiss partners has allowed the rich tabular data to be translated into spatial information.
The database led to a set of detailed digital maps that can be used not only to present data but also to facilitate analysis, both within the census data set and with spatially referenced data from other sources.
The present Socio-economic Atlas of Lao PDR, the second of its kind, is intended first to serve as a practical illustration of the data and also as a means of stimulating its use in education, research and policy making in the Lao PDR.

Mr. Bounthavy Sisouphanthong
Vice Minister
Ministry of Planning and Investment