Building Infrastructure with Mapillary in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

This is a guest post by Beata Felix Rutabingwa from the World Bank. The World Bank has been using Mapillary, a crowdsourcing photo app that maps the world with street level photos, to chart Tanzania’s largest city, Dar es Salaam, in a project called Dar Ramani Huria. This community-based mapping project trains university students and local community members to create highly accurate maps of the most flood-prone areas of the city.

Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, is one of the fastest growing cities in the world – it’s the third fastest in Africa and ninth in the world. With an average four percent increase per year since 2006, Dar es Salaam's current population of 4.3 million is projected to reach seven million by 2025. Such rapid development poses many problems for the forthcoming megacity of planning and public service provision.

Mapping with a phone

This massive influx of people means that Dar es Salaam must build its capacity to support a large population, but this can’t happen until there is solid infrastructure. As it stands, only 30 percent of the city is planned and maps are non-existent. Without mapped roads, it is difficult to track traffic congestion, access poverty-stricken communities, and build solid public transportation systems. Furthermore, Dar es Salaam is known for its biannual floods, which displace countless residents – even causing casualties – every time they strike. Without maps, it is difficult to institute preventative measures against potentially deadly flooding. The floods are natural disasters, but the extent of the damage is a man-made problem.

Through working together with the Tanzanian Commission of Science and Technology (COSTECH), University of Dar es Salaam, Ardhi University and the City of Dar es Salaam, supported by the World Bank, the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR), the Red Cross, and the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team, we’ve worked to put Dar es Salaam’s streets on the map with Mapillary's help. In order for it to flourish into the metropolitan city it has the potential to become, we began a community-based mapping project called Dar Ramani Huria (Swahili for "Dar Open Map"), to bring disaster prevention and response to previously unmapped areas, training the local community to create highly-accurate maps by the residents who know their city best.

Mapillary is a low-cost, high-impact solution for diagnosing dire infrastructure issues around the globe, which is why we decided to use it. Dar Ramani Huria began working in Dar es Salaam back in 2011, but we implemented Mapillary into our project four months ago when we realized the value of maps developed by regular citizens. Dar es Salaam is by far the largest metropolitan area we’ve endeavored to map. We’ve charted slums in Nairobi, but their population of 100,000 people seems marginal in comparison.

Mapping from a motorcycle

With Mapillary, we have been able to chart 25 different wards in Dar es Salaam, occupied by over one million people. We’ve done this by attaching a camera to a tuktuk (or bajaj, a local Tanzanian auto-rickshaw), in addition to collecting photos from a volunteer on a motorbike. By doing this, we put mapping in the hands of ordinary citizens, charting the routes that locals frequent the most. The photos taken from the tuktuk are later uploaded to Mapillary and reconstructed in 3D, creating a real-time model of Dar es Salaam that allows us to pinpoint troubled areas. To date, we’ve mapped over 200 kilometers of main roads with 50,000 images, and our expectation is to map 3383km of road coverage in Dar es Salaam.

Mapping and walking

Dar Ramani Huria is a lot more inclusive than most projects we take on. Typically, we work with one main governmental agency. With this project, we are collaborating with people at all levels of government and organizations. We’re collaborating with two local universities, helping them develop curricula focused on new mapping techniques. And of course, the regular citizens are integral to the success of Dar Ramani Huria. Sparking the community’s interest in mapping has the potential to truly transform Dar es Salaam into a prosperous city with the infrastructure to prevent floods, bring awareness to the need for flood prevention and risk reduction, and arm its citizens with the right tools and skills to build a better city - and integrating Mapillary into our project has brought us one step closer to this goal by putting mapping in the hands of everyday citizens.

My Mapillary profile page shows some example photo sequences. Beata1 profile

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