Monday, January 10, 2011

Kenya's Largest Slum Is Finally Mapped

Until recently, one of Kenya's most densely populated districts hardly had a spot on the map. Kibera in Nairobi is Africa's second largest slum; with an estimated 750,000 people per square mile, it's one of the most crowded places on Earth. But with no documentation of its geography and resources, Kibera remains virtually invisible to the world. This makes it nearly impossible to improve the lives of its citizens.

The Map Kibera Project, launched in 2009, has produced the first complete free and open map of Kibera. Nine Kibera residents were trained to use hand-held GPS technology to gather data on the region. The map shows the location of vital facilities such as water pumps, schools, health clinics, and shops.

However, the map is more than just a navigation device. Because the information is posted online, it can be used as a media tool that spreads awareness and engages the public's interest in one of the world's largest slums. Also, a better knowledge of Kibera's geography should help the government and NGOs to install whatever basic services the community lacks.

The maps are available on Open StreetMap, a map of the entire world that anyone can edit. So far, the data has been used by groups working in health, gender-based violence, sanitation, and peace promotion.

-Martina Georgieva