Ramani Huria (Open Map): Participatory urban mapping for connected and resilient communities in Dar es Salaam. Updated 12/22.
To expand and scale Ramani Huria, a youth-led initiative where students create highly detailed maps of the urban slums where they live.
EXPLAIN YOUR IDEA
Dar es Salaam and its slums suffer from devastating annual floods that result in many deaths and millions of dollars in damages. The poorest areas suffer the most, but adequate planning could make them more resilient. By helping communities to map their own residential areas, roads, and streams, residents become more aware of disaster risk and government agencies have better data to improve infrastructure and services.
Ramani Huria has trained 160 local students and successfully mapped more than 20 flood-prone wards into OpenStreetMap. Two students now supervise the entire project. The next step is to scale geographically and make the project more sustainable by a) training more local people and organizations to map using a simple app and b) coordinating with the global Missing Maps volunteer community. With more people trained and able to map their own communities, the area covered by the project can be expanded and kept up-to-date at low cost using local knowledge.
A new app helps remote volunteers communicate directly with local mappers and makes it easy for residents to add things they see in their communities to the map. Remote mappers use imagery to trace buildings and roads. Local community mappers collect data for what’s visible from the ground (e.g. is a building a hospital or school?) Including government agencies (Comm. of Science & Tech, Municipal Councils), universities (UDSM, Ardhi), the Red Cross, and civil society orgs increases long-term sustainability.
Our idea will benefit communities, government, and NGOs through up-to-date data as unplanned settlements evolve. We unite the global “crowd” with local knowledge to super-charge mapping speed, accuracy, and sustainability.
Both the process of skills development and resulting maps are important tools for individuals to understand and advocate for policies to reduce their community’s disaster risk. Better maps and more engaged residents lead to improved services and more resilient communities.
HOW DOES YOUR IDEA TAKE INTO ACCOUNT THE CONTEXT OF URBAN SLUMS AND CLIMATE CHANGE?
Climate change and its effects (specifically flooding) are disproportionately affecting the urban slum communities of Dar es Salaam. The context in these communities is unique: poor drainage and low-lying homes are ubiquitous, but so are mobile phones and a deep desire for improved infrastructure. Our idea takes advantage of the detailed knowledge that exists in these communities and helps community members address it through the power of open map data and community engagement.
More inter-connected communities are more resilient communities. Our idea facilitates these connections and communications by linking local mappers with each other and with the global Missing Maps volunteer community in a collective effort to keep maps up-to-date. We build on what’s already been accomplished by Ramani Huria in Dar and expand it to benefit more people, areas, and make it more sustainable over the long-term. It will continue to involve local government, the Commission of Science and Technology, and students from Ardhi University and the University of Dar es Salaam.
Yes, between one and two years
I’ve worked in a sector related to my idea for at least two years
TELL US A BIT ABOUT YOURSELF
The Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT) works in multiple countries in the developing world to build the capacity of local people to map their own communities. HOT deploys specialists to provide training in OpenStreetMap data collection, mapping tools, and open data concepts to local partners.
IS THIS A NEW OR RECENT IDEA FOR YOU OR YOUR ORGANIZATION? HOW DOES IT DIFFER FROM WHAT YOU ARE ALREADY DOING?
HOT has worked worldwide in vulnerable places since 2010 and has developed expertise in building self sustaining mapping communities. HOT members have been leading mapping initiatives in Tanzania since 2011. We will take what we have learned in Dar and address what the local community has identified as their new challenges: the need for 1) easier to use tools with lower technical requirements to increase the number of mappers and amount of data collected; and 2) more interaction between residents, neighborhoods, national officials and the global community of volunteers. Talking with local people we found they value mapping, but often do not connect their individual contributions with the larger map data set they create. Better interaction among all stakeholders will improve this.
Also new in this project will be an emphasis on directly connecting the local mappers to the wider Missing Maps online community with realtime chat tools for more mutual support and collaboration.
HOW IS YOUR IDEA DIFFERENT FROM OTHER SIMILAR INITIATIVES? WHAT ARE YOU DOING DIFFERENTLY? WHAT UNIQUE ADVANTAGES DO YOU HAVE?
Mapping initiatives often just collect data about a specific issue. We are focused on infusing mapping skills into the community so individuals can map anything that is important to them, now and in the future. Our emphasis on sharing skills has the potential to make almost every future community project more effective thanks to a very detailed and up-to-date base map.
Typically, mapping projects end up with data stored offline that is difficult, if not impossible to locate and have no clear usage license. Our project is based on open data and an open collaborative platform, creating a resource for the community that can be used by any organization or governmental department. The resulting data is available publicly, for free, always.
We address a major tech hurdle in urban slums: English-only apps and low bandwidth. Our open source mobile app is easy to use, has low-bandwidth requirements, and supports local languages.
We focus on collaboration: slum residents collaborating with local officials collaborating with their national counterparts. We have learned that local residents want to engage with the worldwide mapping community and facilitate that through our tools.
Ramani Huria community forum, Tandale ward, Dar es Salaam
WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR UNANSWERED QUESTIONS ABOUT YOUR IDEA?
In Dar we have been working more with local university students and neighborhood officials than residents of the slum areas. This proposed project will expand and focus on slum residents and we are concerned about how best to engage them in mapping, how best to make sure they see the benefit from the mapping they do. The local university students and ward officials have recently produced a very important drainage and water infrastructure map that is already making a real difference for flood risk mitigation and public health so we know mapping is meaningful to the community. We are now focused on ensuring residents who map realize the greater benefit of their contributions.
WHY DO YOU THINK THE PROBLEM YOUR IDEA SOLVES FOR HASN'T BEEN SOLVED YET?
The importance of maps for creating more resilient communities has been known for a long time, but a shared, open platform to let people collaboratively map has only existed for the past 10 years. For residents in the slums of Dar, the connectivity to directly involve thousands of people have only just recently become available. Until now, a lack of tools, infrastructure and experience in building local mapping communities has prevented people from using participatory mapping to address the many challenges slum residents face everyday. Mapping apps have been focused on Western audiences and are not currently suitable for easily capturing urban slum data in low-bandwidth environments.
HOW HAS YOUR IDEA CHANGED BASED ON FEEDBACK FROM YOUR COMMUNITY?
At this early stage our feedback has come from some of the 160 students involved in our Ramani Huria mapping project. These students have been on the streets in many of the slum areas of Dar for the past year mapping, sharing and working with local neighborhood officials and residents. Throughout that project we solicited feedback and encouraged dialog about improving the students’ work in the community. As part of planning this project, and now directly in response to the additional questions and User Experience Mapping, we have followed up with the local students who now manage the project to do some interviews, idea generation and sanity checks.
The biggest change we made to the project was increasing the focus on a phone based application for mapping. We were surprised to hear how helpful, significant, and useful a phone based mapping tool might be to the residents we wanted to involve. We did not have a clear picture of the penetration of smartphones and cellular network infrastructure in Dar slums, and because of that we did not fully appreciate how a phone application so significantly could reduce the barriers to mapping for residents.
As we increase our direct work with residents, we expect to increase our use of HCD techniques to further refine and adjust our project. The ability to easily communicate with online mapping communities and the practical need for printed maps are aspects of our proposals that received positive feedback and that we will focus on.
Student-led mapping in action, Dar es Salaam
WHAT WOULD YOU ULTIMATELY LIKE TO ACHIEVE WITH THIS IDEA? WHAT IS YOUR NEXT STEP TO GET THERE?
Our goal is to empower local residents to create up to date maps of their informal settlements and communities, which are guided, used and maintained by the community members themselves. Building mapping skills into the community will create high quality map data to increase resilience to natural disaster, provide development opportunities and enable local government, NGOs and grassroots organizations to make better decisions and plan projects to address a wide range of challenges in the future.
How does your idea connect to the broader system of the city where you plan to implement?
We recognize local partnerships maximize our impact. Ramani Huria is well integrated with and supported by Dar municipal councils and ward offices, the Tanzania Commission of Science and Technology, and partners in education, like the Universities of Dar es Salaam and Ardhi. Data generated is being incorporated into urban planning by training town planners to use it in flood mitigation planning, basic service delivery, and improving health and sanitation.
A major validation of our work is that local groups have reached out to Ramani Huria seeking assistance with mapping bus and other transit routes and providing map data to the TZ Red Cross Society. Ramani Huria has also started contributing to the greater African mapping community by translating OpenStreetMap training materials into Swahili and creating new training materials for the world to use. The project has become stronger locally through partnerships and is now helping build new mapping communities in East Africa.