Young Kenyans are making free and open map of Kibera, Africa’s largest slum

Map Kibera to shed new light on details of troubled slum for public use

Young Kenyans began work early in November 2009 to create the first public digital map of Kibera, widely known as Africa’s largest slum. Despite its one million inhabitants, Kibera remains a blank spot on the Kenyan map. Its limited health and water resources, traffic patterns, and housing layouts remain largely invisible to the outside world and to residents themselves.

Though many organizations have collected data on Kibera, the information is not yet shared as a resource for all to use. Map Kibera will fill in this gap by producing free, open-source digital map data using the techniques of OpenStreetMap, a user-edited map of the world. The resulting information will be freely available to residents, NGOs, private companies, and others interested in working with and for Kibera.

Twelve young residents of Kibera were trained on current mapping techniques during a two-day workshop held early in November, and then began mapping Kibera over a two-week period. The results will be shared through OpenStreetMap, a web project to create a free and open map of the entire world, built entirely by volunteer map-makers.

“The project will provide open-source data that will help illustrate the living conditions in Kibera. Without basic knowledge of the geography of Kibera it is impossible to have an informed discussion on how to improve the lives of residents of Kibera,” said Mikel Maron of the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team, who is leading the project.

Once the mapping is completed, raw data will be made available at no charge to upload into collaborative mapping platforms. A workshop with local interested civic organizations will introduce them to the final map, and spark follow-up initiatives. The new group of mappers will share the information with their own communities by distributing paper maps, and will be able to keep information current as conditions change in Kibera.

Map Kibera is a collaborative project led by the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team, which applies OpenStreetMap's principles and techniques towards humanitarian response and economic development, and supported by JumpStart International, which promotes sustainable economic development and self-sufficiency through active projects that focus on building livelihoods and rebuilding communities to overcome effects of conflict, disaster, and systemic poverty.. Partners include Jubal Harpster of WhereCampAfrica, the Social Development Network (Sodnet), Pamoja Trust, Hands on Kenya, Carolina for Kibera and others.

This story is adapted from a press release issued Oct. 24, 2009 in Nairobi, Kenya, entitled Kenyans collaborate with international mappers to complete first free and open map of Africa's largest slum: Kibera in Nairobi, Kenya. Progress of the project is being reported on the Map Kibera blog. For more details, see the Map Kibera website. The pictures of the mappers being trained, and at work, come from the website. You can see an interview with mapmaker Douglas Namale on YouTube. You can see the map of Kibera on Open Street Map.


UPDATE: Phase Two of Map Kibera Project is underway

IRIN News reported Jan. 6, 2011 that the Map Kibera project is now in a second phase, which involves more detailed mapping of four categories: health, security, education and water/sanitation, and includes information such as a health centre’s opening hours and services offered. “When we mapped education, for instance, we checked on the number of schools, where they are and how many children are attending each one - and found out that Kibera has only three public schools and hundreds of private ones. On security, we looked for blackspots,” explained senior mapper Jaine Bisanju. There are three more goals on the list: to start mapping Mathare, another slum in Nairobi; obtaining names for Kibera’s streets, and printing the maps to distribute to the local population. “We are planning on printing the maps to distribute them in schools and public places and also paint them on Kibera’s walls to reach the community,” she added.
According to the project’s organizers, as well as helping Kibera’s residents, the data gathered has been used by groups working in health, gender-based violence, sanitation, new mobile-phone services, farm-to-market supply chains, large-scale conflict mapping, and peace promotion.