On the 3rd to the  5th of April I attended GISRUK (Geospatial Information Research in the United Kingdom) to give a paper on Community Mapping as a Socio-Technical Work Domain. In keeping with Christoph Kinkeldey‘s love of 1990s pop stars Vanilla Ice made a second slide appearance, leveraging the fact it’s a very technical academic title. In short I’m using Cognitive Work Analysis (CWA) to create a structural framework to assess the quality (currently defined by ISO 19113:Geographic Quality Principles – well worth a read…) where there is no comparative dataset.

CWA is used to assess the design space in which a system exists, not the system itself. In taking a holistic view and not enforcing constraints on the system you can understand what components and physical objects you would need to achieve the values of the system and vice-versa. In future iterations I’m going to get past first base and look at decision trees and strategic trees to work out how to establish the quality of volunteered geographic data without a comparative dataset. Building quality analysis into day one, as opposed to being an after thought.

Written and submitted from Home (52.962339,-1.173566)


Understanding Landuse In Tandale

Tandale Landuse September 2011

Towards the end of the mapping phase landuse was demarcated, the results are above. This isn’t representative of the official (the city council) view of landuse this represents landuse as it was observed on the ground. If people wish to download the shapefile it is here. As this is Open Street Map you can also just download data and use it freely under the terms of the OSM licence.

When presenting the project to the community/being questioned why a bunch of people are wandering around a slum with GPS’ the questions were always along the same lines. “Are you mapping land boundaries to prove property ownership? … No? … Why are you here then?”. This then led us to explain and pitch the project to them. However it illustrates people’s concerns; quite a lot of housing in the slum is informal, with precedents of slum improvements destroying homes in the name of progress, regardless of its merits and pitfalls. However this is a story for another time.

From this why map landuse if not for property demarcation? We have access to official population data, this combined with our landuse data we can then understand the provision of services across Tandale. Within the residential areas we have the building blocks to understand not just where the toilets are, but the potential average of each person using that toilet in that area. The same methodological approach can apply to water access points, shops and butchers; any point of interest basically.

Understanding the reality of the ground situation, a ground truth if you will is important. While data is collected the reliability and time since collection are questionable in developed societies where the demographic shifts over decades like the UK. Dar Es Salaam is the 3rd fastest growing city in Africa and 10th fastest in the world. The majority of people contributing to this influx are moving from rural areas to the city. The economics of this mean they gravitate to slums like Tandale. Land can be reclaimed and houses built as rapidly as they fall, simply because people need a place to live.

The increasing population puts enough of a strain on the existing infrastructure, this situation will not resolve itself organically. For example the market of Tandale acts as a staging area for majority of fresh fruit, vegetables, grain and rice. The supply chain starts outside Dar Es Salaam, in areas like Bagamoyo and Morogoro and shipped to the one market. The roads are a mixture of paved and unpaved which on occasion grind to a standstill. Using the data collected we can now start to ask questions like ‘How do we keep the supply chain going?’, ‘How many people in residential areas have access to toilets?’. It’s not quite “open data now” but it’s close and getting closer.

Written and submitted from Broadway Cinéma, Nottingham, UK (52.9540,1.1437)

Ramani Tandale 1.0

Tandale 1.0

The Tandale mapping project has finished its first iteration. I am proud of the people of Tandale and the students of Ardhi University who tirelessly surveyed and edited until the end of the project. This post should have been posted two weeks ago, however due to unforeseen circumstances it wasn’t posted. Now the work turns to use of the data and understanding the next steps. This process is very much in Tanzanian hands, where it should be.

A Framework and Kit List For Community Mapping


Getting the right equipment and software is essential to the success of any undertaking. It is no different for the Tandale project. So far we have…

  • 10 Garmin Legend HCx GPS’
  • 5 Acer netbooks and cases
  • 2 Nikon L24 point and shoot cameras + cases
  • 2 Flip HD Video cameras + cases
  • 3 battery chargers
  • 72 Batteries
  • 5 mice
  • 2 Hard briefcases
  • 1 Large suitcase
  • Pens and paper
For software we use…
We have 18 community mappers and upto 25 university students (who will also have to write a report on how the mapping occurs and its impact). These will be split into 6 groups (one for each subward) containing 6-7 group members.  Each team member will become a specialist in a chosen area. The areas for speciailisation are surveying, editing, satellite image tracing and story telling.

Surveyors are the groups of people who go into the field with GPS’ and map the roads, streets and POIs of Tandale. Using a combination of GPS’, pens and paper they will be responsible for gathering data and supplying it to the editors.

Editors take information from the surveyors and using GPS Babel import data from the GPS’. This will then be loaded into JOSM, transformed by adding metadata like names, amenity type etc. to the already georeferenced object. Finally the new changeset will be uploaded to the OSM database. For a greater understanding of the data that can be attached to the nodes and ways (OSM’s data structure) please look at the OSM’s Tags wiki page.

Satellite image tracers will trace buildings and other natural features like rivers and submit them to the OSM database. They will work in conjunction with surveyors and editors to add context to the tracings.

Storytellers will engage with the community and will provide reflection and reporting of current events through the blogs and Ushahidi. As well as communicating the issues faced by the community of Tandale. Because of the short amount of time that the project has (1 Month) any videos that are recorded will be edited offsite, however we hope that in time videos will be created in much the same way as Kibera News Network and Mathare In Motion. However photos and writing will be submitted to the Flickr account or OSM diaries where appropriate.

Our first week will be about getting the teams to gel. We hope that the students (most of whom have some experience in surveying) will act as the go-to guys for the community members whereas we act more as facilitators and tutors.

The media strategy will be dealt with carefully during the project. Small parts will be available for local press; community newspapers, radio etc. International and national press involvement needs to be carefully managed. Involving and advertising the project is important, especially on a political level for other areas within Tanzania; we want other city councils to emulate our model. The key message is that this is a community project not one administered/run/by and for outside parties. This message and reality could be lost in translation when projecting to a bigger audience.

All of this considered, our first week begins next Tuesday (09/08/2011). We will start with a community forum, where the main concerns and needs of the community will be identified. On the Wednesday the community and students join into their teams and be given a sub-ward with which they will start to learn the mapping process. This data will then be assimilated and the editing process will start to be shown on Thursday. While this is happening Simon will facilitate the storytelling process, aiding the community in telling their stories. On Friday it’ll be more of the same; mapping streets and points of interest.

In the days and weeks after the first week, while streets and points of interest are completed, building outlines will be traced using Bing imagery and landuse identified, with the team specialists taking control of their domains.

Written and submitted in the World Bank Offices, Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania (-6.81298, 39.29194)

Starting To Map Tandale

For those that don’t know already I know I’ve just taken a position as a project manager in Dar Es Salaam to map the Tandale slum in Tanzania. The project is being funded by the World Bank and Twaweza and managed by GroundTruth. Fortunately the good people at Horizon’s Doctoral Training Centre at the University of Nottingham (where I am a PhD Candidate) were happy for me to let me go for 8 weeks or so.

The area being mapped is the civic ward of Tandale in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania. About 50,000 people live in Tandale, of those 50,000 a small number will represent their community and map it. These community members will be aided by university students studying urban planning at the Ardhi University in Dar Es Salaam.

We also have a mapper from Mathare in Kenya, Simon Kokoyo. Simon helps write the brilliant blog Mathare Valley telling stories from the community. Currently the internal debate revolves around sorting deliverables for the project. More specifically what sort of technology should be used? Given access and proficiency with technology is lower compared to Kenya we do not want to use something that complicates matters; therefore the possibility of the community using the technology afterwards would be diminished. This would be a very bad thing.

We’re planning to use Ushahidi for storytelling and reporting and possibly WordPress for blogging. Making a street level map is one thing, however as the eventual aim is community development and improvement. To do this stories about the issues faced by residents on a daily basis needs to be made public. These will be along themes decided by the community at community forum, however the themes of water, sanitation, health and education have already been floated and would be starting points for any discussion.

The key output is a community produced (and then community curated through OSM) map, sustainability and continuation of the project after we have left is important. Due to this all the equipment used for the project like cameras, laptops and gps’ will be left to the Tandale community. The City Council is also aware of the project, in effect giving it their blessing though aren’t directly involved.

We are the beginning of the project at the end of our time we hope that the community will take forth the ideas of community mapping and storytelling. Using these skills hopefully they will better understand their own environment, making the unseen, seen.

Written and submitted in the World Bank Offices, Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania (-6.81298, 39.29194)

When Gov 2.0 Doesn’t Exist – Mapping Services In The Developing World

On the 22nd of June as part of the Open Source GIS conference at the University of Nottingham I presented, on behalf of Map Kibera, a presentation on mapping services in the developing world. The slides of which, though mostly pictures could be useful.

For me the best part of the conference was the minor discussion on the role of the internet in developing nations. While the consensus is that internet access is improving the infrastructure in some countries is in dire need of improvement. I believe that with more and more services (especially mobile money, e.g. Kenya and Ethiopia), access to the internet will widen, and therefore consumption and innovative use of data.

Written and submitted from Putney, London (51.46176,-0.21681)