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News — 06 February, 2017

Kicking off the “Crowdsourcing Non-Camp Refugee Data” project

In January, we started work on a new mapping project in Uganda and Turkey. During this project, we will be mapping parts of Istanbul together with Syrian refugees (and other underserved groups) in Istanbul, and work in several districts in northern Uganda with South Sudanese refugees. Other parts of the project will involve improving data collection software, especially to support more distributed/crowdsourced methods of data collection, and to work on data use and dissemination by both NGOs (supporting them with common base data sets on basic infrastructure), and to refugees (about services being provided to them, such as legal aid, community centers and courses/education).

In Uganda, we will be working with existing partners, such as the Uganda Bureau of Statistics, the MapUganda NGO we helped establish as part of the Mapping Financial Inclusion project, and the YouthMappers chapters throughout the country, but also new partners that are working on the refugee crisis in the north of the country.

Over half a million refugees from South Sudan have arrived in Uganda already, and more are arriving every day. For example, Bidi Bidi settlement, which only opened last August, already houses close to 300,000 refugees, and is now believed to be the largest refugee settlement in the world. This brings huge organizational and logistical challenges with it. In and around Bidi Bidi, MSF is already working through OpenStreetMap to produce better maps of several areas. Some of you might already have helped out on mapping one of the tasks on the Tasking Manager! HOT will mainly be working to map areas surrounding these settlements though, in Yumbe, Adjumani and Arua districts.

South Sudanese refugees arriving in Bidi Bidi

Refugees arriving in Bidi Bidi last year (picture by World Vision)

The second project location, Istanbul, a city of 14 million, is home to over 350,000 refugees from Syria. Refugees live mixed with the local population throughout the city, although groups with similar backgrounds tend to congregate in certain neighbourhoods. For example, Tarlabasi, a neighbourhood in the Beyoglu district in Istanbul, is home to members of the Dom minority, and hosts its own community center, while most visitors to the Small Projects Istanbul (SPI) community center live in a small area in Fatih district.

Computer classroom at SPI

Computer classroom at the SPI community center

 Together with the community centers we will inventory and map services that are available to refugees, such as community centers, health care services, various forms of education, and legal services.  With this information, it’s possible to work on improving coordination, collaboration and data sharing between NGOs active in Istanbul, and create multi-language information brochures for refugees, both those that already live in the city and new arrivals. One of the challenges here is that centers and communities are often disconnected, and unaware of each other’s work; resulting in duplication, incomplete data sets, and less than optimal information dissemination.

At the community level, mapping training, and help with digital literacy, can be offered in spaces like the SPI computer classroom. Training in handling of geospatial data using OSM tools is welcomed by NGOs like Support To Life that deploys a coordination unit to connect and represent informal initiatives and local charities, and has a presence in UNHCR cluster meetings. OSM data for Istanbul is of good quality, especially in the central districts, but tends to get less detailed in remoter districts. We made initial contact with the local mapping community, who are supportive and eager to take part in the project. There is also an open data movement in Turkey we will collaborate with on the, and we met members of the “Open Data and Data Journalism Association” and the “School of Open Data Turkey”.


  Katja on local transport in Tarlabasi, Istanbul

Katja on local transport in Tarlabasi, Istanbul (adapted to the prevailing inclement weather conditions during our visit)

Working in these two completely different situations allows us to compare both the effectiveness of our approach, but also the impact it can have on the projects run by our partners, UNHCR’s implementing partners in both regions, and how the skills and information we supply to refugees can help them find their way in the new countries, cities and environments they end up in. As the project progresses, we’ll keep providing updates right here!

Gift of the United States Government - Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration - US Department of State