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Mapping Dar es Salaam

Published September 2011.

The Dar es Salaam community mapping project has also been featured on the World Bank's IC4D blog. See also a follow-up post on the future of Open Dar es Salaam.

This August 25 students armed with GPS tools have been busy geo-coding every home, footpath, drain, school, business, water and waste collection point in a Dar es Salaam neighborhood. The project is the first step towards mapping marginalized neighborhoods in the city to support the efforts of the proposed Dar es Salaam Metropolitan Development Project (DMDP).

Knowledge — Interpreting the Issue

In Dar es Salaam, more than 70 percent of residents live in unplanned areas lacking roads, drainage, waste collection and streetlights. In order to identify priorities for development—particularly for the proposed Dar es Salaam Metropolitan Development Project (DMDP) — there is a need to map existing urban infrastructure.

Inspired by Map Kibera’s mapping of Nairobi’s Kibera slum, where residents worked with local NGOs to map the community’s water and sanitation systems, the Open Development Technology Alliance recognized the ability to transpose the principle of crowdsourced and information and communication technology (ICT) - enabled mapping to this neighborhood in Dar es Salaam.

People — Facilitating Access to Experts

After the City Council identified the issues, the ODTA began working with local practitioners and with the World Bank’s urban specialists to explore community mapping with city officials and introducing them to the partners who could make the project happen. These included Ardhi University’s School of Urban and Regional Planning (SURP), whose GPS-wielding students would benefit from training in urban planning, project development and field work.

Together with SURP, the ODTA connected municipal authorities with Map Kibera and Twaweza (a citizen-centered access-to-information initiative) to lay the groundwork for community-based and sustainable information creation.

Guiding the ODTA’s process is a commitment to fostering a co-generation of knowledge. Students and faculty at SURP contributed their urban planning experience, while Twaweza and Map Kibera added their familiarity with community-led action and geo-mapping. This decentralized process arises from the ODTA’s belief that the center of expertise lies not with large organizations like the World Bank itself, but rather with a community of innovators on the ground.

Tools — Implementing the Solution

Supported financially by both the World Bank and Twaweza, the team equipped SURP students with Garmin mobile GPS units. Using free and open-source software, geo-spatial coordinates of roads, water points and other key infrastructure are uploaded to the publicly available OpenStreetMap.

This emerging digital map will provide instrumental support not only to the upcoming DMDP, but also to future community improvement projects. OpenStreetMap will also be incorporated into the curriculum at SURP, ensuring that future generations of students gain familiarity with the use of ICTs for open development.

Beyond Mapping Streets

The project’s principles extend beyond Tanzania to numerous other fields and regions (see the Moldova or Kenya Open Data projects to learn more). Regardless of location, the ODTA continues to facilitate knowledge between the right people at the right time to harness ICTs in the process of open development.

See more photos by Mark Iliffe.