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Kounkuey Design Initiative commented on Ridge, Road, River: Connecting the Catchments of Kibera (Rev 02 15.12.22)

Thanks! We are still working on the wording of the agreement with the County and a lot of it comes down to what our first collaboration would look like… so this is a useful question!

At its basis the idea is to engage residents facing intensifying flooding in collecting grounded data that supports government decision-making, while deepening the capacity of Nairobi City County to manage and the process.

In initial work, we would like to complete a first pass at the process with the County team and local residents for select sub-catchments in Kibera, to test whether the process is feasible, efficient and cost/time-effective. Our team would focus on training Sub-County Representatives, Ward Administrators and County Engineers on managing the data collection process. The County (with support from KDI and partners in the first instance) would hire and train residents to serve as data collectors. The residents provide the local knowledge of the drainage and access ways while Nairobi City County engineers would translate the data points into usable, actionable information (maps and priority-ranking). Subsequently the respresentatives would be responsible for proposing investments in area of most need to the County executive committee. If this proved successful in Kibera, and the County found the information useful in its project selection and planning, we would consider how to apply it in other settlements in a second phase.

The incentives for residents are twofold: 1. the issue of drainage flooding has emerged as the most critical issue for public health and housing damages from flooding, as identified by residents, and hence the needs are widely recognised (as well as the fact that this scale of challenge can’t be solved by residents alone); 2. the data collection would be paid and hence would create local income which could be ongoing for residents engaged in the broader program.

The data collection part of the process can be relatively quick, but the time consuming and technical piece is the mapping based on the data collected, which requires technical skills and engineering judgement. Finding the right administrators and technical people at the City is hence a critical part of making this practical and sustainable.

Thanks for the inputs and for helping us move this idea forward.

The KDI Team.


Kounkuey Design Initiative commented on The Kibera Flood Risk Portal (Rev 03 15.12.22)

Hi Chioma!


Our project has definetly been instructive in thinking about the Flood Risk Portal/Resilience Wayfinder idea. Although in a slightly different sector - the WATSAN project is focused on connection to municipal water and sanitation - the fundamental idea of making real information available to residents of Kibera (and other informal settlements) to enable better decision-making is fundamentally the same.

Some of the key lessons that might be relevant to developing the Flood Risk Portal idea:
Boundaries + Scale - The project was a pilot in 2 of Kibera’s 13 villages. Though this was logical in terms of starting small and testing it limits the tool’s coverage and effectiveness as many potential water/sewerage projects straddle the boundaries we’d imposed. It also constrained our launch strategy, which was by necessity a much softer-launch than a Kibera wide solution would have been. In retrospect scaling the pilot to the Kibera settlement would have made the launch and testing of the pilot much more comprehensive and accessible. In a similar way we have much of the baseline data for the Flood Risk Portal idea at the settlement scale, and so launching at the larger Kibera scale would be possible.

Placefinding/Placemaking - Although Kibera is one informal settlements that has benefited from crowd-mapping (it has its own Open Streets Map and MapKibera), our workshops showed that even these base maps were insufficient for community members to locate themselves and their projects in an online setting. Because place-making is an important part of navigating Kibera, correctly identifying and naming landmarks on the map was a key alteration and addition to the existing data. This would need to be re-visited to develop and implement the Flood Risk Portal as locating houses/areas is a fundamental part of the idea. Adding aerial layers that show building rooftops and shapes so users could more easily identify important landmarks and labelling landmarks by their colloquial names, in addition to formal names, are a couple of strategies that could be employed…

Enable Mobile - The was developed primarily for web viewing and though a mobile version was always intended we didn’t have the time or resources to develop it as far as we would have liked. Based on the info we’ve gathered since on mobile access in Kibera having a really great mobile interface would be a super important part of the project.

Complementary Platforms - The WATSAN pilot really focused on the web version. What was brought home through user-experience testing with different groups was how different groups responded to different types of information. Hence the idea of the Flood Risk Portal being part of a suite of interventions that would make flood-risk information more widely available through different mediums (i.e. physical projects, markers, maps, workshops).

Incentives + Needs - Needs and incentives around improved WATSAN services and reduced flood-risk have very different but very real economic and social drivers. In the WATSAN pilot we were able to incorporate the economics of making a new connection, which helped people weigh up their choices. In a similar way it might be possible with the Flood Risk Portal idea to incorporate data on damage and public health impacts of flooding that would give people a shape to their decisions and trade-offs.

Ownership/Maintenance - The WATSAN Portal was derived out of a gap in service provision that would typically filled by the municipal service provider (i.e. the water utility) in many cities. Our partnership with the water utility to develop the project was always intended to hand over ownership of the process and product to the utility, though that process requires considerable time and investment in capacity building and coordination. The Flood Risk Portal is similar in that it fills a gap that might typically be filled by an Environment Agency type organisation in other cities/countries, though in reality having this as a public service is a long way-off in Nairobi. The Flood Risk Portal could work as a partnership with the government, or it could be an independent and insurgent project. In both cases community consultation would be central to the process, though the dynamic is changed significantly depending on the approach... The fundamental lesson though from WATSAN Portal is making sure to decide what the ownership/maintenance model it is at the beginning, and then properly planning and resourcing that part of the project. Ownership is probably the most critical unanswered question at this stage.

Ok, lots of stuff here, and there is probably much more to learn if we re-visit the WATSAN Portal process (mapping, interface design etc.), and definitely very useful in thinking about the practical design and community challenges of this idea!

Thanks! joe@KDI.


Kounkuey Design Initiative commented on The Kibera Flood Risk Portal (Rev 03 15.12.22)

Hey Chioma and Team!

Thanks very much for the feedback.

This is a really important question that we have also been considering.
Earlier this year we did a detailed survey of 963 households over 5 different areas in Kibera (4 of which are in high-flood exposure, high-vulnerability areas) and gathered a lot of useful information. 40% of households reported having an internet-enabled phone. This is pretty consistent with what our friends Spatial Collective  recently found in Mathare (another informal settlement in Nairobi) - see: As mentioned in this piece, Safaricom, Kenya’s leading mobile operator, reported that the vast majority of phones sold in 2014 were internet enabled.

In terms of general internet access “cybers” are a common business in Kibera where people can readily access internet throughout the settlement. Last year the government announced a plan to provide free wifi across Kibera (see:, though it remains to be seen if this will actually happen.

Overall this all suggests that internet access, particularly via mobile, is relatively high and likely to grow. However the question of whether people would use internet to access the type of information put forward in the Portal is more complex... In the same survey we asked what peoples' preferences were for receiving info about flood-risk with interesting results. The preferences were skewed towards more traditional means of communication with radio (68%) being the highest, followed by word of mouth (33%), TV (26%) and community leaders (11%). At the same time the cell phone remains a popular medium (36%), but social media (including Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp - all popular with Kibera youth) was less so (4%).

The preference for information via cell phone of 36% suggests that mobile internet is a viable medium for reaching a significant portion of the population, even in the most vulnerable areas, but that it would need to be complemented with other means of communication... hence the Flood Risk Portal could perhaps be part of a suite of interventions that would make flood-risk information more widely available. This could be via large-format printouts of the flood risk mapping, as well as physical markers throughout the settlement (this idea is explored in our “Kibera Flood Line” idea submission to the OpenIDEO platform).

Another way we had discussed making the internet version more readily available for those without smartphones is to create a series of “resilience-wayfinders” i.e. making the online application available at key public locations (e.g. chieftaincy offices, public gathering spaces) using a docked ipad and local wifi connection.

This is definitely a major consideration for the Portal idea and we appreciate any further feedback or ideas you might have!

Thanks again! The KDI Team.