(Original composition by Taylor Zevanove, AidData Summer Fellow 2016 with the HOT team in Kampala, Uganda)
On July 25th Uganda’s Humanitarian OpenStreetMap team and Youth Mappers, completed a week-long pre-assessment trip in Karamoja. The effort will mobilize local youth to gather much needed data on the under-mapped region of Karamoja. Despite a high concentration of aid flowing to the area and a relatively high number of nonprofits located on the ground, partners and government officials work with very little geospatial data and struggle to measure and evaluate programming.
The project will hold village forums and pair local community members with Ugandan University students to identify key features in the Moroto and Kotido districts. Youth mappers will create GIS capacity in the area and ensure the sustainability of a “living” map, while also developing a substantive data set for public access. Organizations working in Karamoja collect specific data points, but often do not share this information with other actors in the field. By uploading all of the collected data on OpenStreetMap, donor coordination will increase and programs can make better decisions on a project and community level.
This pre-assessment trip consisted of meeting with a wide variety of local actors to determine gaps in data and identify potential partners: everyone from the town clerk of Moroto, the Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) of Kotido, the UN World Food Programme, the Uganda Red Cross - Kotido Branch Office, and personnel from USAID. The team compiled more than 25 pages of notes while listening to more than 30 potential stakeholders and multiple groups of community members. Every stakeholder expressed interest in the project and demonstrated a need to integrate mapping and greater transparency in their work. The local people responded enthusiastically to the proposed mapping mechanisms as a means to better inform resource allocation and management.
The need to create spatial data in parts of the world where access is difficult has been the impetus behind the “Mapping for Resilience” project: an initiative out of USAID’s GeoCenter in Washington D.C. The YouthMappers network is supported by a grant from USAID through the GeoCenter.
The presence of data is often taken for granted; in Karamoja this statement carries significant weight. This opportunity to increase the quantity and quality of open data and subnational information will have real effects on the ground. District planners will be able to draft geographically specified development programs, judges can rule on land use cases based on recorded boundaries of land parcels, and community members will gain greater awareness of local amenities, as well as inform others about their local context, needs, and interests. Hopefully by this time next year, Kotido and Moroto will exemplify how GIS, OpenStreetMap, and open data can tangibly improve development outcomes in vulnerable communities.
This article is also published on the Youth Mappers Site