The work and mumblings of Mark Iliffe

Posts tagged “Community Mapping


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)


Dictator/Benevolent: Janus, Dichotomy?

Taarifa is one of the best things I’ve been involved in. In various forms it’s had shout outs in the New York Times to Random Hack Of Kindness. One of my tasks is to help deploy it in Uganda soon. I recently sent this email to the Taarifa development mailing list. I feel that the role of a founder in a project always needs to be considered. I’m wondering what other people think?


Taarifa is a platform that is fix my street for slums. I’m unsure whether this post is a massive shout out to my ego or what. However I want to start a discussion on the role of the founder in community projects, be them open source or not. I do so mindful of a line from ‘Batman: The Dark Knight’ ringing loud and clear; “You either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.”

At this juncture I should point out my love for another open source project, Open Street Map. I owe a lot to many members of the OSM community, either directly or indirectly. The OSM project and its community has shaped who I am over the years. From an exchange student dragging his local girlfriend mapping because she had local knowledge to going down some deep rabbit warrens elsewhere in the world. I love OSM, I love what it stands for and I love its community to the point where at one stage my health was severely compromised. However things within haven’t been plain sailing with a simple comment of “We are the Board! Shape the project!” effectively a call to arms for the project’s betterment taken as a powergrab by the board -nb I’m not singling people out for this one, the thread is included for reference, good luck if you reach the end!

In my eyes the OSM and its foundation OSMF are making the world better. Viewing it like accounts, they’re contributing more to the black column than the red. In my eyes Taarifa is doing the same, and should continue to do the same until something better comes along, or the project is dead. A lot of people in the skype channel and email have thanked me for organising Taarifa, going to talk to people and the such like. The truth is I’m just a loud, talky person. At times when things are starting maybe that is what’s needed. In future probably not. Taarifa is potentially going to be a foundation, at the very least it needs to do something around it’s identity and outward communications. It’s to be discussed at the coming hackathon and I think we should welcome it! We need to discuss what we want our structure to be, is it anarchy, benevolent dictator, committee? I don’t know, but together we should. Future plans regarding funding, grants, deployments all come under this, at it’s core where do we see this going?

My input now I think is to create the culture or influence it. I want people to love Taarifa as I do. I think the community and what we’ve done and accomplished is phenomenal. As such I’d like to shout a call-to-arms to Taarifans and other developers looking at Taarifa to JFDI if they believe strongly enough into it. Make things better, by consensus. If that isn’t working, fork the project and show why your solution is better. Then pull. Also difference is good. I believe it is ingrained in the Taarifa community’s inception that by defending and debating our positions this makes OUR project better; Remember the whiteboard sesssions! Which as it’s a humanitarian project, enables better usage and happier users which does ‘GOOD’. We’re getting new members who weren’t at the hackathon – hello there! – joining. Every person I speak to, sees how Taarifa can make a big difference, people in Uganda are hopeful, in some small way, the world is watching!

So what about the position of the founder and the quote at the beginning? Is founder the best way description; in some ways you on this list now are founders. I want to be involved in Taarifa for as long as I can, but not at the forefront. People change, they loose their hunger, they get different skills sets. And this is a good thing! One of the most contentious things I have is a business card where I’m purported to be a “Geospatial Innovation Consultant”. Geospatial Consultant fine, using ‘Innovation’ however is esoteric and buzzword bingo. At some stage in my life I innovated, I took a risk and though it cost me very dearly it apparently paid off. Now I don’t really innovate, I research, I just ‘do’. Not necessarily innovation, that baton has been taken up by someone younger, better looking with ‘nicer’ hair than I. My role should be to help them – whoever they are – to innovate bigger and better than before. I guess I’m seen at the forefront of Taarifa at the moment. But as an open note, if you think you can do it better do it. The project is bigger than me, you and the community. At the moment very deep decisions are being made or will have to be made, and they’re made with the information we have now, not 20:20 hindsight. The best team at the time should be guiding and shaping those decisions, not yesterdays team. At the hackathon, I remember drinking some cola, looking at each of the developers hacking and thinking ” I’m the dumbest guy in the room”. Everywhere on our table people created frameworks or made coordinate reference systems. Really smart things and all of you should be damn proud.

The time will come where I will need to step aside as being shouty. This is a natural process, not requiring politicking or a ‘nasty’ process. So I rally “You are the founders, shape the project, own it”. Personally I’ve only ever been able to see as far because I stood on the shoulders of giants. Your shoulders. Thank you my friends.

Will see YOU at the hackathon!


Tanzanian Flooding/Start Of The Response

On the 22nd of December heavy rains and flooding hit Dar Es Salaam. Around 20 (that we know have died), leaving many thousands more homeless. This is clearly an issue. Over the short term there are issues with businesses, consumable goods and buildings destroyed. Over a longer term food shortages and public health issues like cholera and typhoid (caused by lack of access to water and clean sanitation) could become apparent.

As such gaining a view of what is going on ‘now’ is important, as this will help organisations like GFDRR and the World Bank among many other institutions make better decisions for the response. Common in disasters and crises has been the Ushahidi tool, however Tanzania has unique qualities which can be exploited in this situation. Step forward Envaya.

Envaya is a non-profit organisation based in the USA and in Tanzania developing and deploying software to aid community based organisations and civil society organisations in developing countries. For the past week or so I’ve been working with Envaya on various projects, importantly a questionnaire which will go out to Envaya’s network of CBO/CSOs to gain situational awareness many factors, including damage and access to water. From this information and data about the damage should then filter from the bottom to the agencies and organisations at the top to aid in their response.

Involvement of Community Organisations

Community Based Organisations Learning About Our Project

Community Based Organisations Learning About Our Project

The first community forum went well. It was deal breaker for the project in the sense that if we didn’t get the community to share our ideals and objectives, making them their own, then the project would fail. Now the map is basically complete for first draft. We have enough of a basemap so we can now support platforms like Ushahidi and enable blogs to be geolocated.

Collecting the data and producing the map, as I’ve previously mentioned is only a first step. The same can be said for involving the students and community members. By creating a small nucleus of highly engaged people, proficient in mapping and storytelling techniques understand the project, they can evangelise the project to others in their community. This ‘infects’ the community from the inside allowing for more people to interact and share the project without ‘outside’ involvement. This will in time hopefully reach a plateau where the entire process of updating the map, reporting and blogging becomes self-sustaining using only the initial equipment and investment.

With this in mind, in the build up to the final community forum of the project (where presentations will be made to the community as a whole ie. interested citizens, civil servants and politicians) we gave a ‘pre-release’ talk to ten community based organisations. The format for this was quite simple, the students introduced the map with it’s features and intended functionality and the community members introduced the storytelling elements.

Within this process I spent most of it being a photographer and an observer. It wasn’t quite seeing the monster you created evolve but when presenting both students and the community are owning the process. The community organisations engaged in a Q&A session then participated in reporting using Ushahidi.

During the Q&A many questions dropped out regarding the future of the project and how the map can be used further. Because we are still formulating the future strategy it is difficult to say what the next step will be, but it will be along the lines of franchising to other areas overseen by community, NGO/CBO and Ground Truth, constructing this framework will be taking place for much of the coming week.

We are also printing the map and distributing it. This is key; in using Open Street Map, the collected data is freely available for viewing and data analysis without restrictions like a prohibitive licence. However accessibility to computers and internet understandably is a problem in communities like Tandale. To enable the community to view their map we will be printing A2 maps for placement in the sub-ward offices and printing A4 sub-ward handouts.

By placing it in a communal areas for each of the communities, we aim to reduce the barrier of people using the map by making it accessible. This process has started with our small nucleus of students and community, expanded by involving community based organisations and will be expanded further by integrating the map into governmental offices at the sub-ward level. Having the map built into the fabric of the community from the beginning of the project should make further incremental additions easier.

Community organisations being fully involved in the project is the next step, the process has been started and the ball is rolling. However Eid is coming in the next week, so everything is going pole pole, Swahili for slowly slowly. However tangible results are starting to become very clear, on all levels with all stakeholders.

Written and submitted from Slipway, Dar Es Salaam (-6.75174,39.27117)

Water, Sanitation and Geography

I have been surprised with during the Tandale project with how community members are familiar with the geographic boundaries and extent of their community. On touring areas with community members, it was clear how they used geographic features to navigate. Also the administrative boundaries were formed through natural features like rivers, without being imposed upon by an outside force.

Previously when facilitating mapping (essentially “There isn’t anything here, go have a look”) the mappers would have a difficultly in collating the map and their own mental model. Here in Tandale reading of seemed to be a lot easier than when I have previously experienced.

Map reading is a difficult skill, essentially it starts with understanding that the map is an abstract representation of space. As a map is a representation of space; a visualisation of various elements is at the whim of the cartographer (in our case the esteemed people which write the map styles for OSM) and the data that the cartographer/surveyor collects.

The people of Tandale seem to have a spatial awareness down to a very precise art, using landmarks and features with which to demarcate areas. This also relates to official and unofficial landuse within Tandale. Because of the lack of formal solid waste collection, most of the waste is dumped in swampland or wasteland. Unfortunately these waste areas have no buffer with residential homes, further illustrating the potential for disease.

On a tour of the Sokoni sub-ward executive he spoke at length on sanitation and water security. The conversation turned to common diseases and illnesses within Tandale with Malaria and HIV unsurprising common. Also mentioned in the same breath was Typhoid and Cholera, which, according to the officer,  outbreaks are common. Looking at the state of sanitation and drainage this is very believable.

We believe that the first step to solving these problems is to have a map. Hopefully have enough data to give evidence of the problems, to both inside and outside the community. We have also mapped dumping grounds, formal and informal medical facilities, toilets, water points among many other things. Using the map as a basemap in Ushahidi instance allows for the community members to use the map that they have created. Now our focus turns to completing the feedback loop, so there is an interface for the reports. Funnily enough that’s where my PhD comes in…

Written and submitted from the City Style Hotel, Sinza, Dar Es Salaam (-6.47319,39.13199)

Ownership Of Community Reported Problems In Tandale

The Sokoni Sub-Ward Officer (right) and Community Members

The Sokoni Sub-Ward Officer (right) and Community Members

Within the project we have effectively split into two groups along the lines of students and community members. The students are effectively bug hunting, filling in missed tracks and POIs. The community members are focusing on the submission of data into the Ushahidi instance,

Today was quite special in that the Sokoni sub-ward officer joined one of our community teams, reporting the problems within the community. They engaged fully in the process, finally seeing the problems they had found on the map.

I could feel the sense of achievement from the community members and students. The community members were animated at showing their work to the representatives of the local government, especially those who were on friendly terms with the officials.

Initially I feared that the dynamic of student and community would be one that would be difficult. The students are from Ardhi University and are the best and brightest urban planners that East Africa has the offer (the students come from Zambia, Kenya, Rwanda and Congo). They are on average technology literate and have, with some guidance, become power-users of JOSM and other OSM tools. Understandably the community took time getting to grips with the software and methodology.

We ran a Saturday session, now they are quite proficient with computers, GPS’ and cameras. Closing the gulf the community can help the students and vice-versa. Because we wish for the project to be sustainable the drive must come from the community members, and it has. They’ve really taken ownership of the project. Before they would be querying the OSM Tags, or how to pull tracks and waypoints off a GPS. Now they navigate all tasks with ease.

We start each mapping session at 0900 sharp. To be ready for this time, we arrive at 0830 to set the projector, plug laptops etc. Now I set the projector up, once I’ve handed out the laptops. Nearly all members (community and student) are present, ready and waiting. They, and by extension, Tandale, now own the project.

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

Ramani Tandale: Work In Progress

Tandale as of the 19th of August 2011

Two weeks or so ago I posted about the impending Map Tandale project. In it I spoke about the broad aims of the project and the methodology. It was accompanied by an almost blank slate; the map below. This is compared with the map above taken on the 19th of August 2011.

Tandale as of the 9th of August 2011

Quite a lot of progress here! One thing that should be considered is the schedule upto this point. We held the community forum on Tuesday 9th of August. Wednesday was about the community and students working together and getting familiarity with the GPS;mapping with your feet. Thursday and Friday downloading GPS tracks and editing with JOSM was covered. Because of enthusiastic community members and students we ran an additional session on Saturday, attended by a few, to further explore the editing process.

This meant on Monday we could really get started with mapping with everyone at the same skill level, and we did. I now think we’ve got around 90-95% of the major tracks done, the rest of the tracks should be finished on Monday/Tuesday. POIs like water tanks and toilets are in, again we have some areas that need to be mapped and these will be picked up by Tuesday.

Community Members Using Ushahidi

Because of us nearing completion we’ve entered phase two of the project; using the map we’ve created to tell stories and highlight issues. To do this we’re using Ushahidi, categorising reports and issues along Water, Health,  Education, Accessibility and Security. These themes were identified, not through previous experience, but from community members themselves.

In the community forum they provided areas where they believe improvement is needed. With us delivering on a system that monitors what they want monitoring we hope to give the community ownership of the project. Once the taxonomy exists within Ushahidi we requested that the community enter some of the issues that they face along the identified themes. After familiarity with the system was gained they then went out into their sub-wards, their communities, and gathered stories and issues that were happening then. The website for the Ushahidi instance is, please do have a look at it, though you will probably have to translate the reports!

One point of note is the name of the project; also chosen by the community. Ramani is Swahili for map. Ramani Tanzania, Map Tanzania. I believe that the community really feel part of something and are anxious to contribute further.

Understandably this is only the first step, realistically we are barely two weeks into the project, however it is shaping up well. In the coming weeks we will focus on using the map to tell the stories and issues in Tandale and looking how the project can become sustainable with a tangible benefit.

So far the tangible benefits encompasses the urban planning students who have gained surveying knowledge and the community members who have improved their own skills with technology, however we want the project to succeed and be a continuing success. To do this involvement needs to occur between Community Based Organisations, Non-Governmental Organisations, Charities and the City Council. We have already engaged these actors on varying levels but will ramp up interaction in the coming weeks.

As a parting note I would like to personally thank Lucy Fondo and Hassan Abdalla from Map Kibera. They engaged the community members and students with equal aplomb and along with Simon Kokoyo, from Map Mathare, smoothed the implementation of the project removing obstacles like language, making it child’s play.

Written and submitted in the Tandale Ward Office, Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania (-6.797164,39.242736)

Community Spirit and Toilets

In Kibera and Mathare a community spirit exists however it still feels like every man/woman for themselves. When speaking to some residents they give the impression that this arrangement is temporary. In Tandale the spirit and feeling is very different. The sense of community is strong, as is the level of community engagement in projects apart from ours.

You can see the community cohesion within the structure of the family unit and within residential buildings. On walking through the sub-wards of Pakatcha and Mharitan seemingly most of the houses are arranged in a quad, with a private inner courtyard for toilets and washing facilities.

This has impacted our ability to map toilets (useful for understanding the sanitation issues and requirements) due to problems of access. In this engaging the community through other means, like Ushahidi becomes important.

Next week we will be holding mini-forums with community based organisations and members of the community to pinpoint issues like access to sanitation. Because of how the community is orientated towards working together, we hope we can gather data that would be representative of the community as a whole.  We plan to have a discussion with the community, with students using tools like JOSM and Ushahidi to submit issues while the discussions are ongoing.

With this we start to use the map that we have created to further identity community issues and problems. We are speaking to the city council of Dar Es Salaam, at the moment they like this idea of using this information system to identity problems. By introducing it to the community we hope they will like it too.

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

Ready Steady Go

There were no forums today. Everybody from the students to the community members know what to do. Some mappers were 40 minutes early, all had the same objective; start editing. Previously because accounts (email and OSM) needed to be created, familiarity gained with software and understanding the mapping process, progress since Tuesday has been steady if not quick.

Six Days In Tandale

From the morning to around 1500 the team worked tirelessly to make their mark. Tomorrow will bring even more map awesomeness with hopeful added video!

Innovation In Tandale

The Daily Grind/Commute

During a recession theory states that entrepreneurship will increase due to the pressures of people loosing their jobs, due to the lack of employment will create their own and become self-sufficient. This in turn creates new jobs with entrepreneurs hiring people, this in turn generates wealth and tax income and takes the unemployed and puts them back in the labour market while filling the state’s coffers. This like any theory is it open to debate.

Regardless of the facts innovation in Tandale, like Kibera and Mathare, is strong. Why? Because it has to be. In these slums, the naming of which conjures images of deprived communities, living in squalor without hope, this is Africa not Coventry however.

For some this is the case, however there are the other people which, possibly not happy with their lot are getting on with it. Everybody has a Del-Boy mentality, people walking around selling peanuts with the click-clank of their change signals their coming. While surveying in a deeply residential area a mother is making and selling chapatis to those passing her front door.

Within Mathare through the Mathare In Motion video network the community made a pool table from discarded material. In Kibera a musician uses his skill to teach people and make a living.

In Tandale it seems they have more of an inclination towards engineering. I saw the gentleman above sharpening knifes using his bicycle. He’d rigged the rear wheel so that it would drive a grinding wheel when the bike was up on its stand. The beauty of his solution is that when he has finished sharpening knives at one butchers or for one community he just cycles to his next customer. Unfortunately I fear laws exist about this sort of thing over in Europe and the Western Americas.

It’s a shame considering how an elegant and ingenious solution to gap in the market such as this can be exploited with a few tools and a bucket of imagination.

Written and submitted from the City Style Hotel, Sinza, Dar Es Salaam (-6.47319,39.13199)

Points And Areas Of Interest In Tandale

In Tandale producing a street map (streets, paths and points of interest) isn’t enough. Enriching the dataset and publishing allows for extra dimensions to be added to the environment. From the community forum and interaction with the holistic community we have identified the following themes to be mapped…

  • Health (Medical facilities; both formal and informal and pharmacies)
  • Sanitation (Toilets, open defecation areas - This post by Primož Kovačič really gets to the nub of the issue of ODAs)
  • Water (Public/private water sources, water towers and flood prone areas)
  • Education (Schools, madrassas)
The above is a good start and will present us with many miles of surveying to be covered. We also have a secret weapon; Satellite Imagery. The good people at Bing opened up their satellite imagery for usage in OSM. This means we can trace building outlines and identify landuse.

Mharitan Sub Ward Landuse

It is difficult to identity landuse purely from the satellite imagery – the resolution for Dar Es Salaam is around 1-2m; it’s good but not perfect. However with an on the ground survey taking place we make a waypoint for the landuse (be it an ODA, economic or commercial zone) then use the imagery to demarcate the area which is covered by the landuse. An area where you can see the effect of this is the Mharitan subward where the residential and industrial landuse have been demarcated.

Our further aims will be to identify the retail (convenience stores, butchers, kiosks) and commercial (markets and places for commercial goods ) landuse areas. Instances where individual kiosks and shops are embedded in residential areas won’t change the landuse, instead it will be about approximating landuse.

Residential landuse in a western sense  is very much focused on parcels of land where people live. In Tandale and broadly across East Africa the entreprenural spirit is strong, as such you often find residents making chapatis or selling nuts or single use, packet goods out of their front doors. This doesn’t mean that these areas are quasi-retail it means that people are doing what they can to live.

Combing satellite imagery to get concise building outlines with landuse data we can then add the population data from the census. With this average household sizes can then be approximated. Then the identification of access to water, education, sanitation and health per x of population can be extrapolated. The precision isn’t as good as it could be, but providing a baseline is beneficial for the measuring the impact of future service provision.

The dynamism of the underlying population means that accurate statistics are hard to come by, however this is an issue of censuses anywhere not just in developing nations like Tanzania.

Our way forward will be to produce accurate building outlines and a landuse survey with the themes mentioned above. No wonder we’re working weekends as well!

Written and submitted from the Hotel Kilimanjaro, Dar Es Salaam ( -6.8173, 39.2931)

First Days Of Mapping; Mapping With Your Feet

We had 20 people; representatives of the Tandale community combined with 25 students from Ardhi University. The past two days have been spent introducing the OSM process in surveying then editing.

We had previously imported the sub-ward boundaries into OSM to provide context for the mappers and to see the boundaries of Tandale. With our equipment and plan we aim to produce a map made by and for the communities of Tandale. Creating a map has implications for future service provision and the potential to observe effects which schemes (conducted by either internal or external actors) have, the rationale for doing this will be explained in later posts.

With all mappers arriving we squeezed into a ward office and commenced setting up. We spoke about mapping with your feet. Essentially it’s a methodology where you map, surprisingly, what’s at your feet. Things like pharmacies, water and general stores are the sort of things that benefit the community. Because the first few days are about getting data, we didn’t introduce map cakes or directed mapping on a topic; we felt that this would complicate matters. These are to be introduced in the coming days.

Our biggest challenge on the first turned out to be a positive. Tandale was experiencing a power cut when we arrived at the ward office. We had planned to show the sub-ward boundaries and seek feedback on where to commence mapping. Drawing the first stroke of anything is hard; “where should I start?”. To solve this we used our most valuable assets; the community members themselves. They picked up a GPS and went to their homes. Bypassing the students and giving the tools directly to the community members seems to be the way forward.

Tandale Day One

The community mappers really understood what they were supposed to be doing. It seemed intuitive process where they would see something, then create a waypoint. This was tagged by someone else in the team writing down the number of the waypoint and its attributes, like name, function and other metadata.

Once the mappers have finished mapping, edited and uploaded we held a discussion about the process. In doing so we have been able to identify areas where the structure of OSM doesn’t cover their needs. One of issues was within the shop presets; firewood shops are common in Tandale. Other issues are about the catagorisation of health suppliers eg. pharmacies due to their informal status.

Once the mappers get confident with the principles of OSM we can start to include the more complicated areas such as building tracing and identifying landuse. With this we will then need to start ‘doing’ something with the map we have created and the community know this. To this end an Ushahidi instance will be introduced first and possibly later a blog to allow the community to raise awareness of the issues they face.

They then went home to rest, preparing for another day of mapping. Our work has just begun.

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

Community Forum

Simon Kokoyo the community manager for the Tandale mapping project has written an excellent blog about the community forum held this morning so I won’t regurgitate too much of a good thing. The post is here and well worth a read.

The main aim of the forum was a meeting of minds, the collective community and ours. We have the issue that we may think we know what they want, however until they tell us we cannot be sure. From this end we have started the process of empowering the community about the map, in that they feel that they are part of the process, actively guiding it. This is opposed to other development projects which plough ahead regards of community sentiment and need.

We presented Open Street Map and the lack of mapping within Tandale. Currently the ward office has been traced (by me, for reference) with a few roads, presumably also traced. On showing the forum the Tandale map, in contrast with maps of Kibera and Mathare community members voiced opinion that this will not be the case for much longer!

The Voice of Kibera Ushahidi instance was also demonstrated. This illustrated how they could highlight their own issues and needs, as opposed to mainstream media where the perception is that it focuses on mostly the negative ones.

During the Q&A session towards the end of the forum the community comment was made regarding the use of the map and how something like it, combined with Ushahidi could provide for a commons in which to discuss the local solution to local problem. Concurrently this process, through being public viewable can provide a insight into community issues for outsiders looking though the looking glass.

By providing training in map making through OSM it also has the benefit in other areas. The community members will have an enhanced computer literacy due to the interaction with GPS’ and computers. This isn’t to say they will become expert mappers but will gain transferable skills.

The students will gain an enhanced view of their chosen field; urban planning, from a different direction. About five students from the group were very keen on learning more about remote sensed images, others about using social media to tell community stories.

The next stage in mapping will be some field work! Six groups will be formed a mix of students and community. These groups will be supported by the trainers in Tandale for about two hours, where yours truly will show all how to pull GPS tracks using GPSBabel and upload to OSM using JOSM. Topics to be covered will be the tags API and editing in general.

In conclusion the community forum went well. I wish I could have understood more, while the English – Swahili language barrier was present “meme nasema ke-swahili kidogo” went down quite well in the introduction! Onwards to mapping!

Written and submitted in the Tandale Ward Office, Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania (-6.797164,39.242736)

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)


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