23 Nov 2011

Guest Post - How Do We Make Dar Es Salaam More Open?

Daraja was asked last week if we would be willing to host a guest post on this blog, from Jeff Jesse, a Tanzanian student leader who is also consulting with the World Bank, on the subject of the Mapping Tandale project. And since we've found ourselves in the middle of a series of posts on Open Government, it seems a very appropriate time to share this experience. 

But let me get out of the way and hand over to Jeff.

How Do We Make Dar Es Salaam More Open? 

Tandale, mapped. Via markiliffe.wordpress.com
In August, I helped out with a very cool process.  Using GPS devices and some free software, in just two weeks a group of about 25 Ardhi University urban planning students, community members and trainers from Nairobi managed to create and publish a map online of Tandale Ward, an unplanned area here in Dar Es Salaam which did not have any existing map.

The map was published on Open Street Map (OSM). What I like about OSM is that anyone can access it and look at the map. Its also a way to have direct cooperation with citizens who have problems.  Usually outsiders say what the problems are and then consult the citizens afterwards. With mapping, citizens can learn in a few days and identify the problems in their own communities.  We could teach these young guys how to use these tools to identify problems and tell the world about them.   The local government is even excited about this.  In this video, the Sokoni Sub-Ward officer says people are coming to him to make corrections and improve the map.

Last week we had a workshop where the mappers showcased the results of their work in Tandale. It was at the Commission on Science and Technology (COSTECH), a place that hosts mobile developers and tech start up guys.  Since OSM is open and accessible, I think they would be interested in building mobile tools that people in Dar Es Salaam could use.   When will we have an app to see where the traffic jams are or to report to the City whether our trash was picked up?

At the workshop, His Lordship Mayor of Ilala Mr. Jerry Silaa said that involving young people in solving problems is really important, and that the map is the way to do it. He said that the government relies on us to get good information and to identify problems that need to be solved.  He said that mapping can provide training and show people that they are part of the decision making process.

Some people in the audience suggest that the next step is to map all of Ilala. This gave a group of us an idea. Why don’t we open Dar Es Salaam with this map, we could even call it Open Dar Es Salaam, where the City can come to young people to make maps, and then hackers can make new mobile and web apps to help with different problems like education or trash collection. We have tons of talent here and people who want to do something good for the community.

A young guy from the University of Dar Es Salaam Computer Science Department ended the event by asking everyone to say “Passion…And Fire”, rubbing their hands together on passion and clapping on fire.  It was a great summary of an exciting event.