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  • Patricia Solís with Erica Hagen and Zach Muindi

Adding knowledge to the map

Mathare is an informal area of Nairobi, Kenya. Over the past several months, the YouthMappers chapter at the University of Nairobi have been preparing to work with this community with the help of Map Kibera and the USAID Mission in Kenya to map basic infrastructure and features such as water points, toilets, health centers, schools, and other public facilities.

The end use of the data will be to support community advocacy for improved services in the community, and expanding the knowledge base of government and NGO stakeholders for policy and service development. Students will form relationships with community participants who learn to map side-by-side with them, so that they can sustain the process of service delivery advocacy and learn how informal settlement policy decisions are made.

Many of the features that are put onto OpenStreetMap remotely do not include any detailed information other than what can be seen from the satellite imagery. Students on the ground doing field mapping like the University of Nairobi YouthMappers chapter plans to do, can add local knowledge and survey the site so that attribute data can fill in the map. This level of detail is very visible on OSM:

Meanwhile, students themselves are enjoying the training phase and learning more about technology and other areas of expertise, thinking ahead about their futures. Hear them in their own words in this video below:

Participating students are from several University of Nairobi departments including the Department of Geospatial and Space Technology, the School of Business, School of International Development, and Center for Urban Research and Innovation. About 40 students already took part in basic on-campus training in OpenStreetMap. In the coming weeks the Map Kibera team will take a dozen highly motivated students to take part in the field mapping exercise in the settlement alongside residents using an approach that prioritizes empowerment and participation of community residents. The students from the YouthMappers chapter plan to continue to serve as supportive mentors to new mappers who live in the informal community.


Thanks to Zacharia Muindi, Map Kibera; Erica Hagen, GroundTruth; Margaret Mwangi and Teddy Ochieng of the USAID Kenya Mission; and University of Nairobi mentors Professor Bitange Ndemo and Dr. Faith Karanja.

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