Interaction type Public → Government
Trigger Event
Domain Generic Mapping of the biggest informal urban settlement area and thematic mapping of security, water sanitation, health and education.
Organisation Map Kibera is constituted by the founders who are also members of the board, six members who act as the team leaders and many partners who are external organizations and contribute in a variety of ways for the implementation of the project.
Actors The Locals, The Map Kibera team, CfK (Carolina for Kibera), GOAL, USIP, Indigo trust, ATTI, Habitat, Global Giving, Plan Kenya, Hivos, Unicef, JumbStart International, Ushahidi.
Data sets in use GPS tracks, open source and conventional software.
Process Collecting GPS tracks and tracing in OSM platform after having been trained in workshops.
Feedback Topographic and purpose-build maps for the management of supplies in health, education,  security and water sanitation.
Goal Mapping the unmapped Kibera and actively involve locals on the project
Side effects
Contact person

The home page of the project welcomes the visitors by stating that “Kibera in Nairobi, Kenya, was a blank spot on the map until November 2009, when young Kiberans created the first free and open digital map of their own community”. The welcome message summarizes the main idea behind the project; mapping the unmapped areas by putting marginalized communities on the map in one of the biggest informal settlements of the world [MapKibera, 2014]. According to the International Housing Coalition (IHC) Kibera has more than half a million people packed into 2.25 sqKm. UN – Habitat estimates between 350,000 to 1,000,000 inhabitants. Most of the studies refer to it as Africa’s largest slum, others refer to numbers and statistics offering a rough estimation of the population and the infrastructures which are hard to be approached due to lack of reliable geospatial data [Marras, 2012]. Economical and political reasons have primarily affected the existence of informal settlements, however all previous governmental surveys carried out at the specific area of interest remained unbeknown to the public.

In this perspective, a project named Map Kibera was launched in 2009 by Mikel Maron and Erica Hagen with initial funding by Jumpstart International a non-governmental organisation specialising in community-based mapping. The project is divided into two phases; During the first phase which lasted three weeks from October to December 2009, 13 young people were trained in workshops, collected GPS tracks in the field and edited the tracks aftermath with the aid of SODNET (Social Development Network) one of the three Kenyan organizations which participated actively during the implementation of the first phase. The other two partners were KCODA (Kibera Community Development Agenda), and CfK (Carolina for Kibera) provided operational space and support at the very beginning of Map Kibera in 2009. OpenStreetMap platform was used for the creation of a dynamic and easily editing map and QGIS software was adopted to do further analysis and create specialty maps. The ARCGIS, a non-open source GIS software and Tile Mill and other MapBox products were also adopted [MapKibera, Tools, 2014]. The second phase of the project lasted from February to August 2010 and was funded by UNICEF offering the opportunity to the mappers to enhance the points of interest in the areas of water sanitation, security, education and health which meant points of water, public toilets, schools, police stations and clinics. The second phase of the project also included two other mini projects; the Voice of Kibera (VoK) and the Kibera News Network (KNN). The first one offers the opportunity to locals to submit reports, write articles, add breaking news with the aid of WordPress blogging and Ushahidi software. Their work can be sent with SMS and can be published after it having been approved by an editorial team. The second one is a video journalism initiative in an effort to offer the chance to more locals to participate and wider acceptance to be gained.

Among the main aspects of success is that the project had from the beginning the acceptance of the local government who embraced it as something missing [Hagen, 2012]. The project had a clear outline which concludes to a consortium between MK representatives and engaged government officials, where the first present the analysis with data and media backup. The negotiation between the two sides had a successful impact for the community [MapKibera Methods, 2014]. The positive side effects for the locals as individuals and the community was also remarkable. The residents gained new knowledge on technological aspects and the community was confronted as a real neighborhood.

The project faced various challenges which as every coin had two sides at its implementation [Hagen, 2012] especially in terms of technology, economics, voluntary participation and NGO’s role. The primary challenge was to educate residents in new technologies from GPS data collection to blogging and from cameras using to online mapping. In terms of economics, the voluntary model was unrealistic in Kibera. Locals suffer great survival issues which meant that a small daily compensation was given for their participation in mapping as an appreciation for their contribution. Also in terms of voluntary participation, residents found it hard to understand the benefits that they could gain by the participation in mapping and the general potential impact of the project. The leaders had to answer questions about who and how will be benefit by the project. To conclude, as Hagen states, NGOs found it difficult to cooperate and share information with each other. They had learned to work separately and competitively for a long time, which meant that voluntary work was splintered off in small pieces and for different purposes.

The whole project can be summarized into three main factors; its necessity, its expected benefits and its obvious outcome. As Mc Laren [2011] states, “it is impossible to plan a brighter future for Kibera residents without this basic geospatial information”. Behind the project, “it was expected that provision of such information would provide the basis for better coordination, planning and advocacy within the community and between Kiberans and the government” [Berdou, 2011] and nothing less than a new model for participation in civic processes, and a new representation of Kibera based on the knowledge held by its residents comes up with the implementation of the project [Hagen, 2010].

Main Lessons

• Slum mapping by young locals in relatively quick time.
• Enhancement of the basic topographic map with essential thematic layers.
• Combination of open – source and conventional software.
• A small compensation as a form of appreciation to the participants who suffer great survival issues.
• Innovative methods such as SMS reporting, Voice and Video were launched so that mapping to be enhanced and get attractive.


Berdou, E. (2011). Mediating Voices and Communicating Realities. Using information crowdsourcing tools, open data initiatives and digital media to support and protect the vulnerable and marginalised. [online] Available at: [] [Accessed 16 April 2014].
Hagen, E. (2010). Putting Nairobi’s Slums on the Map. Final Report [online] Available at: [] [Accessed 18 April 2014].
Hagen, E., (2012). Workspaces: The changing environment of infomediaries/Map Kibera [online] Available at: [
The_changing_environment_of_infomediaries/Map_Kibera] [Accessed 19 April 2014].
Map Kibera, (2014) [Online] Available at: [] [Accessed 15 April 2014].
Map Kibera Methods, (2014) [Online] Available at: [] [Accessed 15 April 2014].
Map Kibera Tools, (2014) [Online] Available at: [] [Accessed 15 April 2014].
Marras, S., (2012) Kibera, Mapping the Unmapped. [online] Available at: [http://www. djemme. com/docs/docsschede/KiberaEN. Pdf] [Accessed 17 April 2014].

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