August 29, 2011 – This month, 25 students with GPS tools once considered geeky and hard to use are geocoding every home, road, footpath, drain, school, shop, water and waste collection point in a Dar es Salaam neighborhood.
The effort – a pilot project funded with $30,000 from the World Bank – is the first step in a plan to map the marginalized communities of the rapidly growing Tanzanian city and turn them into more livable places.
It's also is an example of a new approach to development problem-solving that taps the promise of ubiquitous and cheap technology, open source tools, social networks, and the wisdom of local and global experts and innovators, says Edward Anderson, a young professional at the World Bank working on the institution’s new knowledge strategy for information communication technology (ICT).
Inspired by Map Kibera
Anderson says the project was inspired by the mapping of Nairobi's Kibera slum, where residents worked with nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to map the community's water and sanitation needs using OpenStreetMap. -- an "open source" software whose 300,000 volunteer editors promote user-generated maps.
In Dar es Salaam, urban planning students from local Ardhi University are geocoding with assistance from community volunteers. The project is also being facilitated by Ground Truth, —the creators of Map Kibera—and receiving support from Twaweza, a local NGO that focuses on access to information and citizen advocacy around education, health care and clean water.
While the Bank is not managing the mapping, the idea was conceived in partnership with the its Dar es Salaam-based urban and local government team, which wants to use ICT to better prepare for the proposed Dar Es Salaam Metropolitan Development Project (DMDP).
The Bank worked with Ardhi University to embed community mapping into the curriculum, so students who already receive a small stipend contribute to the project while gaining experience in the field.
And the Bank, acting as a “matchmaker” and networker, introduced city officials to the concept and to the partners that could make the project happen, says Anderson.
"In less than three years from now, we hope there will be a network of citizens aware of the community mapping and know how to give feedback about trash collection, road maintenance, potholes, and drain flooding," says Anderson.
Open Development Strategy Takes Shape
The project is among the first initiatives to come out of the World Bank’s move toward “open development” outlined in a speech by World Bank President Robert Zoellick before the 2010 Annual Meetings of the Bank and IMF.
In the last 18 months, the Bank opened its own data to the public and increasingly partnered with technology leaders such as Google, Microsoft, NASA and Yahoo, as well as with local and global innovators and experts.
"Hackathons" hosted by the Bank allowed technologists and disaster experts to join forces to develop applications in response to disasters in Haiti and Pakistan. On October 21-23, water hackathons organized by the Bank to seek innovative solutions to water problems will take place simultaneously in several cities.
The Bank also hosted an Apps for Development competition last spring that encouraged innovative use of Bank data, and aided new open government initiatives in Kenya and Moldova.
Connecting to Innovators
A year ago, the Bank announced the creation of “knowledge platforms” to enable collaboration among World Bank staff, research centers and academic institutions from developed and developing countries, think tanks, practitioners, and the private sector.