The new and expanded Ramani Huria 2.0 team, with just over three hundred students, is now getting to work with the practical work of field data collection and editing the digital map of Dar es Salaam.
We’ve installed OpenDataKit (ODK), a free software toolset for data collection on Android smartphones. We’ll be using some more sophisticated data collection systems such as OpenMapKit, a variant of ODK that allows direct interaction with OpenStreetMap data, but the venerable and mighty original ODK is a great place to start. We begin with practice surveys at in the grounds around the D-LAB.
Using ODK, anyone can collect GPS points of reasonable accuracy, sufficient for many type of surveying, as well as record sophisticated survey responses that can include text, numbers, selections from a menu of choices, or even photos! The possibilities for collecting well-organized data on mobile phones are amazing, and the students are astonished when we are able to immediately show them the results of their work on a map.
We sent the students home on Friday with a practice “homework” survey, asking them to visit their neighbours over the weekend and ask a series of questions about what kind of home people occupy, what Ward and Sub-Ward they live in, whether they’ve experienced flooding, how/where they get water, and what type of toilets they use. This survey is purely for practice (and the students are instructed to tell their neighbours this to ensure that undue expectations are not created), but generates a fascinating snapshot of a surprisingly wide area of Dar es Salaam. To our surprise and delight, over 900 surveys are completed over the weekend!
On Monday, we move out of the amphitheatre and return to four classrooms at Ardhi University, where we begin training students on the use of the Java OpenStreetMap JOSM editor, which allows anyone with a laptop to add features to OpenStreetMap. Ramani Huria has the ambition to put every building in Dar es Salaam on the map, so we begin immediately with digitization (tracing) of buildings from aerial imagery. From Monday noon until the end of the afternoon, 204 students with laptops (assisted by the remaining hundred students who watch and critique over the shoulder) add over 16,000 buildings to the map! While putting every building in the city on the map is a huge task, and we don’t know if we’ll be able to do it, but this preliminary result is very encouraging.
By the end of the day on Monday, inspired by the amazing result of the student practice survey, we embark upon a critical experiment: can we leverage our three hundred students to create a thousand community-based mappers? We hand out some “scratch cards” containing mobile phone credit, and instruct the students to approach people in their own communities, give them some airtime credit, teach them to download and install ODK, and fill out a registration survey. On Tuesday morning the preliminary results are in; 170 community members have demonstrated an ability to fill out a basic survey with ODK on their own phones! The students, however, are not satisfied, saying that they can do much better if they have more time. Today we will end the JOSM session early and see how they do with this.
The Ramani Huria dream, and indeed the dream of open mapping projects everywhere, is to make the map a participatory process involving the entire community, belonging to everyone. If our students are able to train and empower citizens to collect, understand, and use local data in their own communities, who knows what we can accomplish?