Open mapping from the ground up: learning from Map Kibera

Report by Erica Hagen for Making All Voices Count: “In Nairobi in 2009, 13 young residents of the informal settlement of Kibera mapped their community using OpenStreetMap, an online mapping platform. This was the start of Map Kibera, and eight years of ongoing work to date on digital mapping, citizen media and open data. In this paper, Erica Hagen – one of the initiators of Map Kibera – reflects on the trajectory of this work. Through research interviews with Map Kibera staff, participants and clients, and users of the data and maps the project has produced, she digs into what it means for citizens to map their communities, and examines the impact of open local information on members of the community. The paper begins by situating the research and Map Kibera in selected literature on transparency, accountability and mapping. It then presents three case studies of mapping in Kibera – in the education, security and water sectors – discussing evidence about the effects not only on project participants, but also on governmental and non-governmental actors in each of the three sectors. It concludes that open, community-based data collection can lead to greater trust, which is sorely lacking in marginalised places. In large-scale data gathering, it is often unclear to those involved why the data is needed or what will be done with it. But the experience of Map Kibera shows that by starting from the ground up and sharing open data widely, it is possible to achieve strong sector-wide ramifications beyond the scope of the initial project, including increased resources and targeting by government and NGOs. While debates continue over the best way to truly engage citizens in the ‘data revolution’ and tracking the Sustainable Development Goals, the research here shows that engaging people fully in the information value chain can be the missing link between data as a measurement tool, and information having an impact on social development….(More)”.