Tag Archives: mapping

Using technology to map Nairobi slums for more toilets, less trash

Q+A – Using technology to map Nairobi slums for more toilets, less trash | Source: Katy Migiro, Reuters, Nov 28, 2013 |

NAIROBI (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Nearly seven out of 10 residents of Nairobi’s slums use shared toilets or pit latrines – while 6 percent have no toilets at all. Yet even if they wanted a toilet, getting one hooked up to the municipal system can involve insurmountable bureaucracy and corruption.

Meanwhile, their trash may be getting picked up by youth groups, but only to be dumped in the river or on the road – rather than picked up by city council trucks.

In an undated photo, Thuo Wanjiku, a data collector with Spatial Collective, collects mapping data via mobile phone in Nairobi's Mathare slum. Photo by Rick Roxburgh/Spatial Collective

In an undated photo, Thuo Wanjiku, a data collector with Spatial Collective, collects mapping data via mobile phone in Nairobi’s Mathare slum. Photo by Rick Roxburgh/Spatial Collective

Now, the Spatial Collective social enterprise is hoping to fix that by using technologies to map out the slums, providing the information and connecting the right players in hope of bringing in more toilets and disposing of the rubbish… and the crime.

Jamie Lundine, managing director of Spatial Collective, spoke to Thomson Reuters Foundation in Nairobi at the 2013 International Conference of Crisis Mappers, which she helped organise.

Q: How are new mapping technologies changing the aid world?

A: I think new technologies are allowing information that may previously have gone undocumented to be amplified and then shared… so that actual players on the ground, hopefully, have a greater say in how aid money is spent.

To be able to create a platform and share information gives global recognition to local problems – and local solutions. Somebody else knows where they are and is listening to their story.

Collecting 300, 400, 500 [criminal] incidents allows you to reveal trends and then share that with decision makers. Visualising them and showing this is a hot spot area, for example, might move somebody.

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India, Chennai: public toilets – not enough, hardly used and badly maintained

There are only 714 public toilets in Chennai, the capital of Tamil Nadu, for a population of close to 5 million. Despite evident need, there is low usage of toilets by women and children, according to a survey of 49 public toilets in Zone 4 by Transparent Chennai.

Public toilet in Ayanavaram, Foxen Street, Zone 4, Division No:53, used by slum dwellers. There are frequent blocks, infrastructure is broken and the surroundings are dirty. There is no running water and insufficient lighting. People are also found drinking in the premises. Photo: Transparent Chennai

The toilets in the survey were often poorly maintained, locked at night, charged user fees through a process of what appears to be informal privatisation, and were located away from areas of greatest need, such as market areas, bus stops, areas with heavy pedestrian traffic, informal workplaces, and undeveloped slums.

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Providing toilets, safe water is top route to reducing world poverty: UN University

Mapping vulnerable communities essential to global health and poverty

Simply installing toilets where needed throughout the world and ensuring safe water supplies would do more to end crippling poverty and improve world health than any other possible measure, according to an analysis released [on 19 Oct 2008] by the United Nations University – International Network on Water, Environment and Health (UNU-INWEH).

The analysis says better water and sanitation reduces poverty in three ways.

  • New service business opportunities are created for local entrepreneurs;
  • Significant savings are achieved in the public health sector; and
  • Individual productivity is greater in contributing to local and national economies.

UNU-INWEH also calls on the world’s research community to help fill major knowledge gaps that impede progress in addressing the twin global scourges of unsafe water and poor sanitation.

Information gaps include such seemingly obvious measures as common definitions and worldwide maps to identify communities most vulnerable to health-related problems as a result of poor access to sanitation and safe water. UNU-INWEH also calls for creation of a “tool-box” to help policy-makers choose between available options in local circumstances.


In the analysis, prepared for global policy makers and released Oct. 20 at the start of a two-day UNU-INWEH-hosted international meeting [Sanitation: Innovations for Policy and Finance] in Hamilton, Canada, experts offer a prescription for policy reform.


The UNU-INWEH analysis identifies population growth, poverty, climate change, globalization and inappropriate policies on investment, urbanization, and intensification of agriculture as the five global trends most likely to exacerbate water supply and sanitation problems in years to come.


“As the International Year of Sanitation winds down, UNU invites and welcomes the help of all scientists who agree we can and must do more,” says Prof. Susan Elliott, a Senior Research Fellow at UNU-INWEH and a professor at McMaster University.


The “toolbox” idea would involve “a virtual library and database of educational materials, technologies, governance, models, etc. would facilitate information exchange of both established and innovative tools.”

As well, “validated models need to be developed that will predict the impact of climate change on water and wastewater infrastructure, water availability, water quality and waterborne / water-associated diseases.”

UNU-INWEH was created in 1996 to strengthen water management capacity, particularly of developing countries, and to provide on-the-ground project support. With core funding provided by the Government of Canada, it is hosted by McMaster University, Canada.

Source: UNU / EurekAlert, 19 Oct 2008 – see also Fiona Harvey, Financial Times, 20 Oct 2008 and Reuters, 19 Oct 2008