Friday, February 18, 2011

MapKibera Gains Ground and 'Ground Truth'

This neighborhood map was made by volunteers and residents of Nairobi, Kenya.

And they've also entered that data into OpenStreetMap. Link and embedded below

Then American Association for Advancement of Science gave them some maps and digital tools to automatically outline buildings

High-tech maps are neat, but without labels they cannot capture the meaning. So the MapKibera organization has held workshops and training sessions to get young people to label and verify these buildings, using local knowledge from a variety of non-profits.
Even the best-planned development projects can be unraveled by poor understanding of a place, what MapKibera calls "ground truth". I was reading about a hydroelectric dam project which relocated villages on paper, but found nobody moved because the new land was associated with witches.

What impresses me most about MapKibera is they've chosen under-represented neighborhoods, left blank or ignored on government maps, as the canvas for a new type of community-building. They're able to make OpenStreetMap's high tech come alive in a place without much more than SMS phones.

They inspired me to keep working with WikiProject Bangladesh, a community and research map which is already starting in the capital. More than a year after our original concept, we are making a new health and disaster response map a reality.