Sep 14, 2010

Map Kibera

“Kibera’s people deserve to know the facts about their lives” – Robert Neuwirth, Shadow Cities

Today, we’d like to tell you about a humanitarian project that MapQuest and Cartifact are contributing to – called Map Kibera.  Map Kibera is an ongoing project that is stored within theKibera Photo Graffiti Project OpenStreetMap databases and was developed in response to a lack of available map and other public data about one of the world’s most well known slums: Kibera, located in Nairobi, Kenya.  While most parts of Nairobi are well documented online and on paper maps, the most densely populated informal settlements and villages remain virtually invisible to the world.  Much of the information shared in this blog post is from a variety of internet sources that go into great detail about the Map Kibera initiative.

The actual mapping of Kibera started in October 2009 with various partnerships and young people from the villages of Kibera.  Some of the tools used for this mapping project were walking papers, GPS units and satellite imagery.  Here’s an excellent post on how intricate the collection can be and how it was accomplished.  For example, the mappers had to determine what exactly constitutes a “public road” in the extremely dense villages and which points of interest to pinpoint that are unlike most others in the world:  water collection areas, battery charging stations, herbalists/chemists and even witch doctor locations.  Once all the map information was collected, the data was uploaded into the (OSM) servers rather than kept as a standalone printed map.  Putting the map data into OSM enables anyone to update and edit the map data to keep it a living, breathing and most importantly, up-to-date representation of Kibera.

MapQuest was first exposed to Map Kibera at the State of the Map Conference in July 2010 and wanted to find a way to help.  Mikel Maron, board member of OSM and co-director of Ground Truth Initiative, suggested that the Kibera maps displayed in OSM needed style assistance in order to accurately show the themes (types) of data that Map Kibera is focusing on: health, security, education and water sanitation.  These new themes that are specific to Kibera weren’t showing up, because their unique data style tags aren’t in the OSM map style file to be displayed on the OSM maps.  Also, the actual points on the Kibera maps are so densely populated, a new type of map style was needed to show the points on a thematic map.  The overall need was to have one map displaying locations to receive medical help; another map for security, etc.  One of our partners, Cartifact, has been instrumental in creating a new map style design based on MapQuest’s look and feel to donate to the Map Kibera project.  Cartifact prepared the sample map (at left) as a preliminary cartographic concept.  Cartifact has also worked closely with MapQuest in the past, designing our latest map styles on and our mobile products.

Kibera continues to be a hot button of activity – with recent elections, new innovations and the occasional flooding that changes the landscape of lives and the physical map of Kibera.  The image at right and corresponding blog post describe the re-mapping that was necessary after heavy flooding in August 2010.  If you’d like to read and learn more about Map Kibera, here’s a few interesting highlights and links to view: