Training youth mappers in Mukuru

It’s not if but when, And the when took place this Monday morning. A KPC pipeline – that runs through Nairobi’s informal settlement of Mukuru – exploded, taking with it the lives of 95+ people who live, work, school and play near in one of the marginal areas of the sprawling metropolis of Nairobi city.

Kenyans have been discussing the pipeline disaster and have been analyzing the factors that led up to the event. On Tuesday, both the Standard and the Daily Nation ran 11 pages of coverage of the event. It’s not surprising that journalists have in the past covered the precarious situation residents of the Sinai village face. There is often coverage of other dangerous conditions Nairobi residents live in – such as those living along the railway or high voltage power line in Kibera, or the polluted river in Mathare, or the dumping site in Dandora.

Many are not aware that the Sinai village (referred to in the media as Sinai slum or Lunga Lunga slum) is one village in the larger informal settlement of Mukuru. Mukuru is located in Nairobi’s industrial area. Access to the area is facilitated by roads that lead along the backs of factories and warehouses and industrial workvsites. The dangers of living in Mukuru slum are apparent as factories bellow out smoke, trucks carrying hazardous materials rumble by and pipes and electrical towers dot the landscape.

For the past 2 months, the Map Kibera Trust team have been working with youth in Mukuru. The “Map Mukuru” project began with funding from Unhabitat’s Youth Fund and interest from young people in Mukuru who we had worked with in 2010, with funding from HIV Free Generation.

Maureen Omino from Kibera trains mappers in Mukuru

The Map Kibera team has been engaged is a long-term process of skills building for young people in Nairobi’s informal settlements of Kibera, Mathare and now Mukuru. The Mukuru project is being run almost entirely by young mappers from Kibera – we’ve taken the opportunity of receiving the youth fund grant to push the Kibera youth to manage the project on their own and to exchange skills and learn from other young people.

The team is saddened by the tragic event in Sinai. The event hit some of our mappers quite hard – they were in the field in the area of the blast the previous week and were thankful that we were inside, editing data at the time of the explosion. None of the mappers were injured during the explosion but some lost friends in the fire and we send our condolences to the families and friends of the victims.

Our mapping work however is not a reaction to any singular event – it is a long-term effort aimed at amplifying the voices of residents of informal settlements. Our mission is to increase their representation and influence in decision making processes. By training young people as mappers and digital storytellers, we hope we are contributing to community resilience, not just to respond to disasters like the Sinai fire tragedy, but to ultimately reduce the risk to resident in informal settlements through identifying solutions to ongoing problems and dangers in the local environment.

My post also appeared on the Map Kibera blog

The Daily Nation and the Standard today both ran 11 page spreads on the fire is the Sinai area of Mukuru slum yesterday. Mukuru is a sprawling informal settlement, stretching the length of Nairobi’s industrial area. Access to the area is facilitated by roads that lead along the backs of factories and warehouses and industrial worksites. The dangers of living in Mukuru slum are apparent as factories bellow out smoke, trucks carrying hazardous materials rumble by and pipes and electrical towers dot the landscape.

Despite the environmental hazards, the push and pull factors that drive rural-urban migration and the expansion of informal settlements around the world are at work every day. Kenyans move to the countries’ cities in search of employment, education, exposure and opportunities that are not available in rural areas. On arriving in ‘the big city’ the lack of adequate, low-cost housing means most Kenyans will find a home in one of the informal settlements – built on marginal land, often close to swamps, dams, rivers (Mathare), dump sites (Dandora) or industrial areas.

Our health is closely related to the social and physical environment in which we live. The environment in an informal settlement is directly related to long-term health problems such as chronic respiratory infections or diarrheal diseases. One direct short-term health impact (and one major cause of mortality among residents in informal settlements) is fire and other accidents that are common due to the proximity of houses to one another, the materials used to build homes and cook within them, and proximity to electrical and industrial hazards.

It is not surprising that several journalists have in the past highlighted the dangers of living close to the gas pipeline in Sinai. It’s also not surprising that the residents in the area were warned of the dangers but chose to stay in the area. When the informal, marginal areas are all you can afford, there’s not much choice.

So what’s the solution? Mugo Kibati, Director General of Kenya’s Vision2030 has suggested that the Vision for a Kenya in 2030 is a country without slums. But what’s the process by which Kenya gets there? How does the government ensure safe and adequate housing for the millions of Kenyans living in informal settlements? Let’s ask the residents themselves and brainstorm solutions together.

Kenya’s Vision 2030 strategy was launched in launched in June 2008. The overarching vision for the plan is “a globally competitive and prosperous nation with high quality of life by 2030.” The plan is based on three pillars:

  1. Economic: Maintain and sustain economic growth of 10% per annum for most of the next 20 years
  2. Social:  A just and cohesive society enjoying equitable social dev in a clean a secure environment
  3. Political: An issue based, people-centered and accountable democratic political system

The strategy is enabled by crosscutting activities in infrastructure development, science technology & innovation, public sector reform and macroeconomic stability. The Vision 2030 office is currently working to support approximately 100 projects across all pillars and within the “enabler” areas across the country.

One example is the reform of political system through the development of e-government systems to improve service delivery and communication with the general public. Another example in is the road development currently taking place throughout Nairobi (any Nairobian can tell you the current snarly traffic jams are a constant headache).

Vision 2030 is expected to be rolled out through government programmes with a significant contribution from the private sector. Companies and organizations are encouraged to contribute to the Vision. Private companies and public-private partnerships are expected to be responsible for rolling out 70% of project. Tatu City is one such private sector project.

Geospatial information for decision making towards Vision 2030

As presented today in the Africa Geospatial Forum, the team behind Vision 2030, lead by Director General Muga Kibati, requires geospatial information to assist in decision making. One example of this is the plans to establish 4-5 zoonotic “disease free zones” to improve the situation for livestock and animal husbandry. Identifying and monitoring these areas for improved planning and decision making will be assisted by GIS. Another area where geographic information systems (GIS) will be crucial is in land registry. EM Murage, Directory of Surveys at the Ministry of Lands, spoke of the development of a national digital cadastre database and land registry database.

According to the Murage, Kenya has “continued to use outdated and inconsistent geodetic reference systems that are not properly connected. The situation makes building up Geographic Information Systems (GIS) extremely complicated.” One challenge the Ministry experiences is the demand to conform with modern geospatial technologies, inadequate software for updating topographical maps and survey activities and inadequate human capacity in new technology (his slides showed screenshots of ArcView 3.2!! – they most recent version is 10).

The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) is another key government agency that supplies geospatial information that is, and will contribute to Vision 2030. KNBS is the principal agency of the government for collecting, analyzing and disseminating statistical data in Kenya. According to Emma Akelo Odhiambo, GIS Manager at KNBS, her team will use geographic information to assist in timely decision making for several sectors. Of particular interest is the health and water and sanitation sectors.

The GIS team will contribute to the goal “to provide equitable affordable health care at the highest standard of cities” and to make “water and sanitation available and accessible to all.” KNBS will identify location of health facilities and provide data about the distribution of future health facilities and medical personnel to staff based on the needs identified.

Type of health information KNBS will collect:

  1. Location of health facilities
  2. Distribution of medical personnel
  3. Location of vulnerable populations
  4. Indicating longitudinal trends
  5. Mapping at risk population
  6. Determining geographic distribution and variation of diseases (incidence and prevalence)

Water and sanitation information:

  1. Inventory of utilities
  2. Distribution of water points
  3. Accessibility to water points
  4. Sources of water
  5. Safety of water point

Government agencies, organizations, institutions, companies and individuals contributing to Vision 2030 have a challenging task ahead of them. Many of the presentation in the session on Vision 2030 at the Africa Geospatial Forum discussed the potential of geospatial information, rather than concrete examples of how various agencies are using information to inform projects. With only 18.5 years left to 2030, the challenges faced by various agencies in terms of harnessing GIS tools for decision support must be tackled quickly in order to move ahead not only with planning but also with monitoring the implementation of Vision 2030’s projects.

Sitting in the iHub in Nairobi on Monday, I looked around to see if there were any other Canadian faces that looked as shocked as mine at the news of Jack Layton’s death. I was the only Canadian in the room at the time. I don’t normally write about Canadian politics, but this particular moment in time has caused me to reflect on how my views of politics and politicians have evolved over the past 6-8 years.

Like most young Canadians, my personal politics followed closely those of my parents. Growing up in a small rural community on Vancouver Island, I didn’t have much awareness of or exposure to the implications of voting for one party or another. On my 18th birthday (national voting age in Canada) my mom encouraged me to register as a voter and participate in National and Provincial politics. And so I did.  And I voted NDP. It seemed like the right thing to do – Jack Layton was a charismatic politician, his party supported health care and equality and many other things that my young, left-wing mind found appealing.

As I studied for a degree in Health Geography at McGill, I became more convinced about the need for strong legislation that supports a healthy social environment and that reduces constraints in terms of access to healthy living spacing (prevention) and treatment (access to care). As the party whose founding leader introduced free, universal healthcare to Canada, the New Democrats have been consistent in their commitment to safe and equitable conditions for all Canadians, at work and at home.

I was fortunate to see Jack speak together with Thomas Mulclair at an NDP event at McGill in September 2007. I remember leaving the event confident that I was well represented, should his party ever become the Government of Canada.

Now that I live in a country whose public health legislation and health care provision is weak if not in crisis – I am ever appreciative to the legacy of Tommy Douglas and the leadership of Jack Layton in fighting for medicare, and a better Canada. A Canada that we can be proud to call home.

The loss of such a strong, charismatic and honourable leader is ever more tragic in light of the crisis of leadership facing the African continent. I am not one to make generalizations, and surely the Canadian government of late has not made me so proud – however the hold that some longstanding African “leaders” have over their crumbling economies and social institutions (Mugabe, or “Bob” in Zimbabwe, Gaddafi in Libya to name only a few) makes the loss of a young, but well respected politicians even more of a tragedy. A loss for Canada, and the world – which could really do with more politicians like Jack.

Jack Layton’s final letter to Canadians is a reflection of his wisdom, integrity and strong leadership ability. Although he leaves behind large shoes to fill, the challenge will be for the NDPs to hold onto the support of the young Canadian voters like myself. I look forward to the changes the NDP may still make on the Canadian political landscape.

“My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.”

                                                            Jack Layton

Map Kibera Trust recently facilitated a 3 day training to introduce participatory digital mapping to target staff at Plan Kenya. The participants in the workshop included programme staff and ICT staff from the Kenya Country office and regional offices around the country. Participants came from Homabay, Kisumu, Kilifi, Kwale, Tharaka, Machachos, Bondo, the Kenya Country Office and the Urban Programme (Nairobi). Their backgrounds ranged from ICT support staff, to Child Rights & Gender Advisor, to M&E Coordinator, to programme staff in 4 of Plan’s 5 focus areas (Protection and Inclusion, Health, Education and Governance).

The training was planned at the beginning of the implementation of the new Kenya country strategic plan (CSP) 2011-2015 for Plan Kenya. Building on the success of Plan Kenya’s work in Kwale on universal birth registration and also from digital mapping work with POIMapper and Map Kibera Trust, the new CSP highlights the importance of ICT in the improved efficacy of Plan’s work. Plan Kenya has chosen to place an explicit focus on participatory ICT in its work. This is in line with Plan International’s focus and leadership in ICT4D globally.

In this context, the workshop aimed to:

  • Introduce participatory digital mapping theories, techniques and tools that Map Kibera Trust employs in its work
  • Provide hands on experience in GPS data collection and data editing using Open Street Map
  • Learn more about how Plan Kenya programmes use information and communicate
  • Brainstorm ideas about how to integrate ICT into programme work

We began with an introduction to Information Communication Technology for Development (ICT4D) by exploring some questions to consider before introducing ICT into programme work. The questions were (and are) meant to stimulate discussion and encourage participants to think systematically about the integration of ICT into new and existing programmes. The questions identify the reasons why you would use ICT, assess what constraints and opportunities exist in the framework you are working in, and explore how people are communicating in order to design appropriate and sustainable systems to build upon existing channels of communication. The questions are modified from Linda Raftree’s post “7 or more questions to ask before adding ICTs,” so thanks to Linda for the inspiration!

  1. Why are you considering the use of ICT?

The Plan Kenya staff identified that using ICT, particularly mobile phones and the internet, has become a desired lifestyle choice that the majority of Kenyans around the country have embraced. This was an important point that the participants wished to build upon and capture in their use of ICT in various communities. The group generally agreed that ICTs are available and can be accessed by many Kenyans. The staff also mentioned that ICTs could improve communication and be used to easily mobilize communities (for example sending one SMS to many people to attend a meeting). ICTs are flexible and can improve accuracy and consistency in information, which can then be easily stored and shared. There was also mention of improved efficiency in programme work through the collection and processing of real-time information.

 

  1. What are the programme goals or programme framework you are working within?

 

Most of the participants identified the new country strategic plan for the organization as the overarching framework that Plan Kenya staff are working with. The country strategic plan identifies 5 areas of focus: Health, Livelihoods, Education, Protection & Inclusion and Governance.


  1. What are your specific information and communication needs?

The information needs of Plan Kenya staff members were largely related to programme work. The needs included collecting accurate data for baseline surveys for Monitoring and Evaluation and thus to assess programme impact. There were some suggestions of improving communication through digitizing information that can more easily be shared to large numbers of people. The group suggested that this could improve accountability to other staff members, donors and to beneficiaries in communities. ICT can also improve the ability of Plan Kenya staff to analyze information and make decisions.

  1. How are you already using information and communicating?

In order to integrate ICT into existing programmes within communities, it is important to know how staff members are already using information and communicating in their daily lives. The group came up with a long list of communication tools: email, internet, intranet, websites and social netoworks – namely Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, MySpace), applications (Skype, Yahoo Messenger), SMS and telephone calls, radio, and television. The group is using information during baseline data collection. Some are involved in a project that integrates SMS applications into the birth registration process in Kwale District.

  1. Who are the actors involved in the particular issue you are seeking to address with ICT?

 The Plan Kenya staff won’t be (and aren’t) using ICT in isolation. There are important stakeholders they work with on particular issues, programmes and projects. These include the general community – with a particular focus on youth and children. Important sub-sections of the community include teachers, school administration, Government of Kenya, civil society organizations, Plan Kenya partners (such as Childline Kenya, Community Cleaning Services), the media and private sector actors. Different groups of people use technology differently, and depending on the answer to question 1) and question 6 (below) the staff may need an ICT strategy that is diverse enough to reach the various stakeholders.

 

  1. How do people use ICT already?

 

This list of the ways in which Kenyans are already using ICT is a testament to the idea that the group tapped into when answering question 1. The use of ICT in Kenya, specifically mobile phone applications, has become a lifestyle choice. Kenyans use phones for mobile money transfer, SMS, calling, accessing the internet, paying their bills, paying for goods, calling toll-free lines (e.g. Childline call centre, police hot lines) and for data collection and dissemination. Kenyans also listen to the radio, use computers, blog, email, chat, shop online, bank online, join online discussions and news groups and use various forms of social media. They do this for work, but also for pleasure. These were the means identified by the group, however this is not an exhaustive list.

  1. How do people access technology already?

 

This was a sub-section of question 6 and the group answered: mobile phones (including GPS enabled and internet enabled phones), street phones, computer, internet connection in office and homes, internet modems, cyber cafés, radios, TVs, toll free lines, and resource centres.

 

  1. How will you close the feedback loop and manage expectations?

How do you make sure the information you are generating, no matter the medium or tool you are using, gets back to the community? How do you promote the use of technology without seemingly presenting a silver bullet solution (even if you don’t intend to do so)?

These questions were answered in several ways. One idea about both closing the feedback loop and managing expectation was to network  with other organizations and partners in the community to share information and raise awareness about the use of ICT and the opportunities and limitations of ICT4D projects.

Another option for closing the feedback loop was to both collect and disseminate information on popular social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter.

A third suggestion was to close the feedback loop and manage expectations through an informed resource person and/or resource centers and staff having sessions with the community.

Finally, there was the suggestion to start the integration of ICT in development work by outlining and communicating clear expectations and at the end have feedback sessions to monitor the whole process.

 

  1. What is your sustainability plan?

The final question, and likely the most difficult (we only had a one hour brainstorming session and did not expect participants to come up with final answers to this question but simply consider it as an important component to any project with an ICT component).

One idea was to equip community members, and particularly youth, with skills that will be applicable beyond the program (or project) timeline. The YETAM project (youth empowerment thorough arts and media) was designed in this way and the group agreed that this design was beneficial to the young people involved in the program.

Another suggestion was to involve the beneficiaries/community in the entire process of choosing/customizing appropriate ICT tools that suit their needs and for further development so that it is community owned process and will in theory continue beyond the project/program lifecycle. Other ideas included:

  •  Build partnership with Government and NGOs.
  • Integrate fund raising or income generating activities into the project.
  • Use affordable technology (free and open source)
  • Ensure follow-up mechanisms are built into the project

We discussed the use of mapping, open information and ICTs for development. We also used two of the three training days to focus on hands-on training and skills building. We facilitated training in handling the GPS devices, collecting data and using Java Open Street Map (JOSM) and Potlatch to record open spatial information into the OpenStreetMap databases. As we’ve found in the past, the hands on training is exciting and motivating. The theorietical discussions, combined with the practical field work inspired discussion and debate on ideas on how to integrate participatory digital mapping andICTs into programme work.

The following are ideas generated by the Plan Kenya staff:

  • Ushahidi could be useful for referral partners mapping and identifying the hot spots of child abuse
  • Use of SMS for communication with hearing and speech impaired within the community
  • Using reports and sharing the same information to various media channels. E.g. PPM a in-house system that is used to track and monitor information and projects progress
  • In governance as a tool for enhancing social accountability, where ICT can be used to track projects
  • Digitization of data collection e.g. in sponsorship (especially photography), child abuse hotspots
  • Involving children in participatory community mapping by mapping schools using walking papers
  • Using blogging as a tool for youth to document governance issues in the new good governance project for the Urban Programme
  • In Kilifi the team is doing a 2 year study on Open Defecation Free villages and health outcomes. They could use mapping and spatial statistics to document findings.
  • Mapping and other ICT4D tools could be used to document and share participatory activities that Plan already undertakes, such  as transect walks and participatory situational analyses

The training ended with a note of caution – the team recognized the potential tension between the processes that are needed for ownership of a community map (and any other ICT4D project) and the haste of development partners to use the budget and report progress to donors. In this case, many projects (ICT4D, mapping and any other project) may “leave the community behind.”

It is thus important to ask the following questions and consider the answers carefully when designing projects:

  • For whom are we doing the mapping (or any project really)? And whose map is it?
  • Of what use is the (spatial) information, what will it compliment?

After another successful workshop with Plan Kenya, we look forward to building on the excitement and enthusiasm generated during the training! Let’s see some of the great ideas turned into reality!

This is a test of the email post function offered by Safaricom.

I’ve just enabled the SMS2Email functionality on this blog to test it out. Through our work with Map Mathare, we’ve been discussing blogging through SMS with the Mathare Valley bloggers.

Marc Maxson blogged about SMS2Email from Safaricom extensively here. With his permission, I’m reposting the basic instructions.

To set-up sms to e-mail on your phone:

  1. Create a new SMS message on your phone and type EMAIL ON. Send the SMS to 123
  2. Receive reply with your e-mail address based on your number e.g 254713509292@safaricomsms.com
  3. To personalize your e-mail address e.g. johndoe@safaricomsms.com, send the words ‘ADDRESS John.Doe’ to 123
  4. You are set!

To send an email to someone:

  1. To send an e-mail, create a new SMS and type the recipient’s e-mail address followed by your message. Leave a space between the address and your message. SEND TO 123
  2. To read an e-mail. You will receive an SMS notification when you have an e-mail. To read your first message, type READ 1. To read your second message type READ 2 etc. and send to 123. The message will inform you of how many SMS’s it will take to read each message.

COST: Sending an sms to 123 is charged at 7/- per sms, sms length is 160 characters. Receiving an sms from 123 is free

Setting up “blog by email” on your WordPress blog

The official directions are on WordPress.com. To post by email, you need to:

  1. Create a dedicated e-mail account:
    • Login to your wordpress blog
    • Go to Dashboard
    • Click “My Blogs” under Dashboard
    • Click the “enable” button to setup blog by email. This will generate your secret email address. It will generate something like test123test@post.wordpress.com
    • Write your email address. This is what you put in the start of every sms2email message.
  2. Use sms2email from Safaricom to deliver the message

The question that sparked this post is: whose mandate is it to collect information?

A few weeks back our team attended a meeting with Plan Kenya and partners who are using mapping tools for generating information. Someone in the room asked:

“Whose mandate is it to collect information?”

The meeting was called to discuss a specific tool data collection tool called POImapper, which is being developed by a Finnish company called Pajat. Plan Kenya is piloting the tool and has developed custom data collection forms to collect data to inform Plan’s work in Kilifi. There is no question about mandate when gathering programmtic level data (about children benefiting from Plan’s sponsorship programme for example). The concern raised during the meeting was about an organization collecting public information in an area where government should be providing this information – this includes the base level information on roads, schools, and other public infrastructure.

One of the major challenges of using POImapper however is the lack of base maps upon which to overlay the Points of Interest (POI). Without good base layer data, it is difficult to discuss the implications of the information being collected. Pajat and Plan Kenya made the decision to switch from Google Maps to OpenStreetMap because of this challenge (through our work with Plan Kenya, we also hope we played a part in this decision). With OpenStreetMap, the organizations are free to improve the base layer information as necessary and use the data in their (for-profit) portal. But this brings up the question of mandate? Should a non-governmental organization (NGO) really be doing this work?

The question about mandate got me thinking about how government, citizens and organizations collect and share (or don’t share) information.

The question “whose mandate” gets at the question “whose information is this that we are collecting?”

One point of view (shared by some at the meeting) is that information is the property of the government. The government is mandated to collect and disseminate information for the public good. Others should not interfere. There is validity in this point of view.

Access to information is in the Bill of Rights of the newly adopted Kenyan constitution.  “Right and fundamental freedom” number 35 in Chapter Four, Part 2 states that:

35.       (1)  Every citizen has the right of access to—

(a)        information held by the State; and

(b)        information held by another person and required for the exercise or protection of any right or                                                    fundamental freedom.

(2) Every person has the right to the correction or deletion of untrue or misleading information that affects                                 the person.

(3)  The State shall publish and publicise any important information affecting the nation.

The government is constitutionally mandated to grant any citizen access to “information held by the State.” The government is mandated to go even further and not only publish “important information affecting the nation” but must also publicise this information (theoretically improving accessibility).

But the reality of the situation is the governments don’t always do what they are mandated to do. Sometimes governments need a push in the right direction – a reminder of their role and their responsibility to the citizens of their country. The government may also need a “proof of concept” – a demonstration that there is an easier, more cost effective and efficient way of delivering information and services to citizens.

One example would of a “proof of concept” is the use of ICT in universal birth registration in Kenya, being piloted by Plan Kenya in Kwale.

On the Plan Kenya country website for this campaign it states

“It is government policy that every child should be registered at birth, and this is covered by the Births and Deaths Registration Act. However, there is a huge gap between law and practice. Birth registration is not fully decentralised, and so families have to travel long distances, particularly in rural areas, to access registration services. The birth notification process – through which parents complete a notification form at the chief’s office when a child is born, which are then submitted to the district registrar of births – can take more than a year or even two. Any registration after six months of birth is considered late registration, when the process is more complex and lengthy, and there is also a penalty – which act as deterrents to the registration of children. Parents also do not see the need to register their children and so do not actively seek out registration services. The government is reviewing this Act, which we hope will ensure greater access to registration services for Kenyans.”

Instead of waiting for the government to improve its birth registration system, Plan Kenya is working together with local government to digitize the birth registration system.

This is a success story of a local government partnering with an NGO to achieve results. It is also why we have advocates – advocates for access to essential medicines, for improved service provision, for freedom of the press, and the list goes on.

In this case of improving access to information generally, we need information advocates – those citizens and/or organizations who advise individuals and organizations on the importance of information, where it can be accessed and how it can be utilized. Information advocacy is similar to info-activism, but does not specifically target activists or advocates. Information advocates raise awareness about the importance of information more generally.

Should international, national or local NGOs information replace the need for government information? No, indeed NGOs should not. Organizations and advocates should work closely with government to advise and improve systems for collecting and disseminating information. It is government policy, in many countries to provide access to information. Governments and NGOs need to work together to open up information and make it accessible for local populations

I must admit that the Map Kibera team is biased toward open knowledge and/or open data. We have a commitment to open data. We create, share, and advocate for open information, in all sectors (NGO, government, citizen). The disclaimer is of course that not all data should be made public – for example private data that may endanger individuals or invade privacy should not be made public (such as precise locations of individual vulnerable children or families, individual level health information, etc). Aggregate information of this kind may however be useful for planning and advocacy purposes.

We do focus on public information – that is information about services that are open and available to the public – such as water access points, sanitation facilities (toilets mainly), schools, health clinics, shops, kiosks, restaurants, bars, and many more. The teams in Kibera and in Mathare are working hard to integrate information into local government channels.

Demand for open government data is increasing around the world. Kenya is not unique in terms of challenges in opening up government data. In Kenya there is however very little data available at the local level. Through visits to City Council and local authorities in Kibera and Mathare, we’ve learned that the local area counselors, chiefs, District Officers, District Commissioners, and other officials do not have access to maps of their areas. The local government authorities may need some support in terms of generating baseline information (including maps) of their constituencies.  This is not a criticism of the government, but a call for NGOs, citizens and government to work together to generate and share information for better planning and development. This is a major challenge, but our teams are consciously working hard to open dialogue with local government to create sustainable systems of information creation and dissemination. Plan Kenya has been an invaluable partner in terms of advising and supporting this process. Keep your eyes out for updates on the work in Kibera and Mathare.

[Cross posted on my blog]