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  • Taylor Zevanove, Douglas Ssebaggala

Not taking data for granted


On July 25th Uganda’s Humanitarian OpenStreetMap team and YouthMappers in Uganda completed a week-long pre-assessment trip in Karamoja. The effort mobilized local youth to gather much needed data on the under-mapped region of Karamoja. Despite a high concentration of aid flowing to the area and a relatively high number of nonprofits located on the ground, partners and government officials work with very little geospatial data and struggle to measure and evaluate programming.

The project will hold village forums and pair local community members with Ugandan University students to identify key features in the Moroto and Kotido districts. YouthMappers will create GIS capacity in the area and ensure the sustainability of a “living” map, while also developing a substantive data set for public access. Organizations working in Karamoja collect specific data points, but often do not share this information with other actors in the field. By uploading all of the collected data on OpenStreetMap, donor coordination will increase and programs can make better decisions on a project level.

This pre-assessment trip consisted of meeting with a wide variety of local actors to determine gaps in data and identify potential partners: everyone from the town clerk of Moroto and the Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) of Kotido to the UN and the Uganda Red Cross - Kotido Branch Office and personnel from USAID Uganda. The team compiled more than 25 pages of notes while listening to more than 30 potential stakeholder and multiple groups of community members. Every stakeholder expressed interest in the project and demonstrated a need to integrate mapping and greater transparency in their work. The local people responded enthusiastically to propose mapping mechanisms to inform resource allocation and management.

The need to create spatial data in parts of the world where access is difficult has been the impetus behind the “Mapping for Resilience” project: an initiative out of USAID’s GeoCenter in Washington D.C. The YouthMappers network is supported by a grant from USAID through the GeoCenter.

The presence of data is often taken for granted; in Karamoja this statement gains great significance. This opportunity to increase the quantity of open data and subnational information will have real effects on the ground. District planners will be able to draft development programs with maps, judges can rule on land use cases and settle land rights issues knowing the boundaries of land parcels, and community members will be aware of the closest amenities. Hopefully this time next year, Kotido and Moroto will exemplify how GIS, OpenStreetMap, and open data can tangibly improve development outcomes in vulnerable communities.

Thanks to AidData. This article is a revised reprint of a previously published blog here.

Photo credits: Cleo Stern.

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