The Spotlight Kampala Project: Illuminating Energy Inequities in Informal Urban Communities
The Geo YouthMappers chapter is collaborating with Arizona State University, the University of California, Berkeley, University College London, and the University of Massachusetts, Amherst to implement the Spotlight Kampala Project. The multi-institutional collaboration, led by the University of California, Berkeley, aims to provide insight into the electricity access challenges faced by informal urban communities and create a dialogue within the SDG 7 community and the wider SDG community where energy is an integral resource for urban quality of life. The Geo YouthMappers chapter is privileged to be part of this phenomenal undertaking and I’m excited to share the experience thus far.
As part of our involvement, we are mapping physical energy infrastructure including utility poles, transformers, low and medium-voltage distribution networks, and critical social amenities (business centres, schools, toilets, and water collection points) in 25 informal settlements in the city of Kampala. As part of the preparation efforts, a two-days training was conducted from 12th -13th October 2022. The training focussed on field mapping using the KoboToolbox, FieldPapers, and the OSMtracker. Project participants, including YouthMappers and representatives from the Slum Dwellers Federation, convened at the GIS centre at the college of engineering. The training was conducted by Elena Van Hove, the Director of the Laboratory for Energy and Power Solutions at Arizona State University.
The 5-week field mapping campaign kicked off on 20th February 2023, and it has been largely successful so far and 18/25 informal settlements have been fully mapped to date, representing 72% of project progress. The field data is collected using mobile mapping tools including Kobo Collect, Field Papers, and OSM tracker. After fieldwork, the students validate the data before uploading it onto the OpenStreetMap Canvas, where it is made available to any interested stakeholder.
Geo YouthMappers chapter members report that through this project, they have been able to better their mapping skills, appreciate the value of teamwork, and gain an understanding of the living conditions of slum dwellers. The experience has taught them the importance of community development and motivated them to continue to contribute to similar projects in the future.
Namuyanja Aisha Namuli, a YouthMappers chapter member working on the project says: “Over the past few weeks, I have learned how to use a variety of tools including koboCollect, field papers, and the OSM tracker app during mapping and data cleaning sessions. Additionally, I have gained valuable social skills such as interacting with my teammates and coordinating with each other to reach different settlements for the fieldwork while solving challenges as a team. One of the most fascinating aspects of the project has been mapping the power infrastructure. This has provided me with a unique opportunity to learn about the different structures of electric poles, transformers, and power line connections between electric poles. Through this process, I have also been able to explore various new places in these settlements and gain an understanding of the living conditions of people in slums such as congestion, poor sanitation, among others. In summary, being part of the Spotlight project has been an incredible experience that I would recommend to anyone. ”
About the Author
The Spotlight Kampala Project Manager |
The Geo YouthMappers, Makerere University