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News — 12 April, 2018

Mapping to support local NGOs in Kenya

As part of HOT’s mission to expand local mapping communities and ensure that HOT’s partners contribute to the sustainability of OpenStreetMap, our partner, Salesforce, recently took part in a remote and field mapping project to map Thika. Thika is an industrial town North-East of Nairobi in Kenya which is largely comprised of informal urban settlements. The purpose of the project was to put Thika on the map, identify key community assets and collect household data in order to improve youth development and education initiatives in the area.

In celebration of their 19th birthday, 2,000 Salesforce employee volunteers mapped for refugee programs in Uganda and Turkey, mapping over a quarter of a million buildings as part of their Global Volunteering Month! As a continuation of these activities, two members of the HOT Tanzania team travelled to Kenya to conduct community mapping training and field mapping with a local Kenyan NGO Karibu Centre. The Karibu Centre works with children, young people and their families to bridge the education gap in Kenya. The field mapping involved five members of Salesforce staff, five Karibu Centre employees, two members of local mapping project MapKibera (an interactive community project digitising low-income areas of Kenya), and five Thika community residents, with the objective of conducting data surveys in Thika province to improve community programmes and development initiatives. Of the fifteen attendees, twelve of the participants were women.

Training session: Introduction to OpenStreetMap and Open Data

During the two day training, participants learnt open mapping techniques using free, open source android tools such as OpenDataKit Collect and OpenMapKit, as well as mapping computer software such as JOSM and QGIS. The objective of the training was to teach participants how to collect data on general household demographics, employment statuses, education levels, water points, electricity access, sanitation facilities and environmental features. The maps produced out of the collected data will be used by Karibu Center to better understand the Thika Community and help come up with better pre-school and after-school programmes, and job readiness training for underprivileged families. Since change happens at the community level, Karibu Center’s programs not only engage children and youth, but also empowers parents, driving change throughout the whole community.

The household data of Gashagi (cluster in the bottom right) and Umoja (cluster in the top left), visualized as raw data in KoboToolBox showing if a house is connected to electricity.

Equipped with the skills from their two-day training, participants were divided into two teams - one team conducting household surveys (using OpenDataKit), and another mapping physical building features (using OpenMapKit). The survey team were responsible for collecting household information guided by field papers, and managed to collect 450 household surveys in Gashagi and Umoja in just three days. The infrastructural mapping team activities focused on mapping key features around Gashagi and Umoka. This included data such as building use, public toilets, financial services, education facilities and other points of interest. This data extended upon the remote work of Salesforce volunteers who created a basemap of basic infrastructure digitized from aerial imagery under the Thika Project on HOT’s Tasking Manager.

Community members learning how to use OpenDataKit Collect to fill out the household surveys

Through the training we also provided connectivity costs, and provided 18 new mobile devices to participants. Many community members had never used a smartphone before and the trainees noted a vast improvement in ICT skills of attendees after the training. Not only does community mapping offer local people new technical skills, but it can also encourage people to become powerful advocates for the transformation of the spaces in which they live, becoming more civically minded in the process. It can also foster a sense of environmental and community responsibility. The maps are be publicly available online on OpenStreetMap and and also in printed form at the Karibu Centre. The devices provided to MapKibera and the Thika Project will continue to be used for future local mapping efforts.

By providing local people with skills on open source software, local technology can be used to collect the vital information to transform local communities. Thanks to the Salesforce volunteers who have committed so much of their time and to all those who took part in the project.