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News — 21 February, 2013

Burundi: maybe a small country, but great opportunities for open data with Eurosha

One Eurosha country we did not talk about so far here (sorry for this) is Burundi, this small but crowded country between DRC, Rwanda and Tanzania. There, Adelina, Alexandra, Anna, Désiré, Gloria, Iolanda and Marion are hosted in Bujumbura, the Capital city, and are lucky to live and work in a big, quite comfortable house called “Le Château” (“the Castle” in French, what is though a bit exaggerated: not so cosy, and more pasta for dinner than game birds...), without actually being hosted by lazy chatelaines, but fierce defenders of the open source and open data causes.[inline:DSC_0231 800x600.jpg]In the country, there was no local mappers, but already some areas traced remotely by foreigners, essentially over Bujumbura, sometimes from old Yahoo imagery.

One Eurosha country we did not talk about so far here (sorry for this) is Burundi, this small but crowded country between DRC, Rwanda and Tanzania. There, Adelina, Alexandra, Anna, Désiré, Gloria, Iolanda and Marion are hosted in Bujumbura, the Capital city, and are lucky to live and work in a big, quite comfortable house called “Le Château” (“the Castle” in French, what is though a bit exaggerated: not so cosy, and more pasta for dinner than game birds...), without actually being hosted by lazy chatelaines, but fierce defenders of the open source and open data causes.

In the country, there was no local mappers, but already some areas traced remotely by foreigners, essentially over Bujumbura, sometimes from old Yahoo imagery. As of today, Bing imagery mainly covers Bujumbura and its close outskirts, as well as some other areas in the country like Gitega, the scond largest city, but a large majority of the territory does not have any high resolution imagery that can be traced in OSM. A complete aerial imagery has been taken last year through a EU program, and is still under post-treatment, but its future license is not set yet, and might unfortunately not be open.

As usual the stakeholders are made of local offices of UN organizations (especially UNHCR and WFP...), governmental institutions (including a DRR platform), international and local NGOs, Academics, technical communities and civil society associations (like Guides and Scouts). Each of them has different background, capacities or goals, especially civil protection, refugees, economic development or community empowerment. But they all share the same needs for baseline data and the fact they do not know they can access and contribute to an open one.

Presenting the Eurosha project, explaining the OSM approach and proposing training adapted to specific needs are the outreaching activities led by the volunteers from their arrival, what is not so easy when you are not a geographer, a mapping expert or an open data and open source guru. Nevertheless, holding on and really caring about every coming step, day after day, the volunteers have made the visited organizations interested by the open data approach and the huge potential of OSM and its services.

Regarding the local organizations, the volunteers have quickly started to work with Scouts and Guides, who have a leading role for youth involvement in the country.

They have not only provided classic OSM training (both imagery and field mapping based), but also games they invented, based on their own Scouting experience for some of them, or the teaching methods provided by URD at Plaisians last year before their deployment, to illustrate the benefits of collaborating together to achieve an aim or to make them understand the Open Source and Open data concepts. It involves a ball, pieces of clothes or crosswords.

Of course, mapping parties also occurred, like in Rohero.

The Scouts made the volunteers meet the Youth Association for IT Democratisation (AJDI) , a dynamic organization that counts around 500 members throughout the country. Techy people, some of them unemployed, they have quickly handled JOSM and field mapping techniques, organizing even their own mapping parties with two GPS the volunteers lent them.

I met them in their office on Tuesday, guided them for their edits based on their really well filled paper forms, and took the opportunity to show them some advanced editing tools like parallels, circle arc or contour merge. Basically they will become the most advanced OSM mappers and we will both hand over them our experience and contacts, by inviting them as facilitators to the coming trainings.

As a good internet connection is quite expensive here, finding a way for them to be easily connected is one of the things that we would like to fix before the end of the Eurosha project.

Among them, the one provided to the Geography Department within the Bujumbura University will start next week. I will still be there, and Stéphane and the Kenya team arriving on Monday should also participate. Attendees should be professors and skilled students. Reaching the Academics seems always a good way to durably set up OSM, and the current experience in Senegal is demonstrating this idea.

Red Cross from Burundi is also one key stakeholder we are working with. They are intensely involved in Crisis preparedness and response, internally and also as part of the National Disaster Risk and Reduction Platform, led by the Ministry of Public Security, Civil Protection section. Mapping was already one of their main objectives this year so they are really enthusiastic by the project, as well as the possibility to work woth the Scouts, Guides or AJDI. We have just planned this week to start a complete training and field mapping in Gatumba, frequently flooded and affected by related health issues like cholera. We proposed AJDI guys to act as trainers or facilitators during this event, in order they get experience in this kind of field training. We will also discuss with BRC about concrete OSM materials can be used to act as a support for crisis preparedness and response.

The Burundian civil society apart, the Eurosha team had contacts with international organizations. An ongoing partnership with Population Services International (PSI) see OSM being the platform used to map all the heath facilities PSI is surveying with the Ministry of Health.

We are also under discussion with UN and other big organizations, which I will talk about in next blog posts once it is officially set. But March should be a crazy run of training and field mapping.